They promised us breeze, and breeze is what we got! For the passage race from Steep Island to Longcheer, Shenzhen, it was up around the 20kts mark all the way until the last corner (but more of that later).
IRC combined divisions rolled into the start area in a good 2m swell-and-chop, and with just 14sec to go before the P down, instead it was Class down and AP up as the pin dragged off downwind at a rate of knots. By the time the buoy had been reset and the scattered sheep rounded up and pointed in the right direction, it was 25min later, meaning that the IRC boats had some catching up to do with the regatta’s Glamour Division (Beneteau 40.7OD) and the HKPN fleet.
Whiskey Jack came off mid-line with the height and pace an electric giraffe on a skateboard, and was delighted to be keeping company with Jamie McWilliam’s rather more powerful Ker 40, Peninsula Signal 8. It felt good while it lasted. The trip from Hong Kong to Longcheer is a straight-line coaster, with one corner near the end. Breeze for most of the trip was steady in strength, and the main decision was to ‘go in’ or ‘stay out’. Staying out at sea for an anticipated lift at the top of the track certainly paid, but not for the reason expected – in fact the breeze was all over the compass, starting at 090? wandering back and forth between 060K and 070?.
But at the left-hand headland just six miles from the finish line, it collapsed into puffy, shifty stiff from all directions – on the finish line it was 270? - and overlaying a big ocean swell pushing into Daya Bay, good for surfing it there had been any more wind! Surfdude did some very entertaining 360? turns trying to get to the last patch of puff in order to finish.
So Whiskey Jack was happily surprised to find herself only third IRC boat into the marina, and happily spent an hour tidying up after the energetic 35nm beat. Crew hit the Quarantine queue at 1705h, and were dismayed to find that this was just the queue for the next queue – Immigration. Quarantine declarations ('no, I do not have bird flu') were meticulously checked letter by letter and digit by digit against passports. And then on to Immigration. One crewmember’s Arrival Card was rejected because it was completed in blue biro instead of something black (although nowhere on the form is this specified, and blue ink works perfectly well at every other entry point to China). Darkness fell. And then, almost 2 hrs after starting to queue, down came the rain. Officials rushed to provide flimsy plastic ‘emergency’ ponchos (queueing in a tent would have been a better idea) and a great many grumpy voices began to make themselves heard. 'Don’t exactly make you feel welcome here, do they?'
Let out of school, the Whiskey Jacks stepped smartly past any alternative attractions that might have been there (it was dark, it was raining) and got into the nearest bus for transfer to their hotel in Da Mei Sha, some 45min distant. By the time they arrived at the opening and prizegiving party (started 1900h) at 2100h, it was all over bar the shouting, and there didn’t seem to be a lot of that.
Truly, it is a tough call to get your competitors/guests to a 1900h function when (having arrived at the marina at a not unreasonable 1600h) they have been held up by an Immigration Dept working on geological time, and then bussed half way across the country. Welcome to China, where appearances are more important that practicality, and the sizzle is so much more valued than the steak.
Whiskey Jack (J/109) scored second in IRC 3. Now we just have to work out how to beat the big bad boat in the division – Sea Wolf (A40).
Back on the rail tomorrow – after the 45min bus ride to the marina!
by Guy Nowell, Sail-World Asia
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1:25 AM Sat 27 Oct 2012GMT
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