Final preparations are underway for the 27th Rolex China Sea Race, Asia’s principal offshore competition which gets underway on Wednesday, 16 April. A fleet of 34 yachts from eight countries are expected to make the start line in Victoria Harbour, Hong Kong ahead of a 565-nm race through the South China Sea to Subic Bay, The Philippines.
'The Rolex China Sea Race is without question our most important and best known offshore race,' explained Joachim Isler, Commodore of the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club. 'We have competitors from all over the world and it is the first time we have broken the 30-boat threshold in this millennium. We are delighted to see that. In terms of conditions, it should be a medium to light race. It could get tough for the crews in terms of patience at points of very light airs.' Isler, also co-skipper of the 41-ft Ambush, will be taking part in the race for the eighth time.
Among the international entrants is the predominantly American crew onboard Brian Ehrhart’s TP52 Lucky, overall winner of the 2010 Rolex Middle Sea Race. The Lucky crew includes Australian navigator Adrienne Cahalan, multiple line honours winner at the Rolex Sydney Hobart onboard the all-conquering 100-ft Maxi Wild Oats XI. 'This is my first time doing the race and indeed sailing in Hong Kong, The Philippines or the South China Sea,' revealed Cahalan. 'I’ve sailed with the team before and there is a nice fleet of TP52s, so we’re looking forward to good close, racing.' Lucky will face strong competition on the water from two TP52 rivals Freefire and Standard Insurance Centennial, the latter skippered by Ernesto Echauz (overall winner in 1998 and 2008).
Geoff Hill skippered Genuine Risk to line honours in 2012 and is aiming for a repeat performance this time onboard 72-ft Antipodes (GBR). 'This is a real ocean race in the true sense of the word,' explained Hill. 'It’s very challenging in terms of the conditions and a true test of seamanship and experience.' Genuine Risk remains favourite for line honours in 2014 although under its new guise as the Syd Fischer-skippered Ragamuffin 90.
The defending champion is Jonathan Mahony’s Humphreys 42 Zanzibar, keen to start off where she finished in 2012. 'We signed up for the 2014 race within half an hour of the posting of the Notice of Race,' explained Mahony. 'We’ve sailed together for ten years or more and we know each other quite well. Usually in this race you start off with the cold weather in Hong Kong, it is a bit chilly, a bit windy, then it gets warmer and warmer.' No boat has successfully defended its Rolex China Sea Race title since the mid-1960s, a daunting challenge as Mahony admits: 'The odds are probably against us as the fleet is larger and stronger this time around and includes many former winners.'
One of those former winners is Rolex China Sea Race veteran Neil Pryde who first competed in the race in 1968 and is aiming to add to his impressive haul of Rolex China Sea Race honours which includes two overall and two line honours victories. 'Line honours is probably out of reach considering we have two much bigger boats in the fleet this year but we are certainly looking for a podium position and overall first place is definitely on the agenda,' said Pryde, owner of the Welbourne 52 Hi Fi.
The course record to beat was set by Karl Kwok on his Volvo 60 Beau Geste (elapsed time 47 hours, 43 minutes and seven seconds) in 2000.
The 2014 Rolex China Sea Race commences at 13:20 local time tomorrow. The race is organized by the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club (RHKYC) and has been sponsored by Rolex since 2008. The latest entry list is available here Event Programme
Wednesday, 16 April
13:20 Race start, Victoria Harbour – Hong Kong Sunday, 20 April
17:00 Location prizegiving, Subic Bay Yacht Club, The Philippines Wednesday, 30 April
19:00 – 21:00 Final prizegiving, Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club All times listed are local
For more detailed information about the 2014 Rolex China Sea Race including race documents and the current entry list please visit the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club website