Please select your home edition
Edition
Southern Spars

Rolex China Sea Race - Veterans steal the headlines

by KPMS on 25 Apr 2014
Rolex China Sea Race 2014. Ragamuffin 90 © RHKYC/Guy Nowell http://www.guynowell.com/
In the 2014 Rolex China Sea Race, two yachtsmen seemingly in the twilight of their sailing careers stole the headlines and plaudits at a memorable edition of the event.

Syd Fischer, 87 years young, a veteran of 45 Rolex Sydney Hobarts, winner of the Rolex Fastnet in 1971 and five-time challenger of the America’s Cup, skippered Ragamuffin 90, the race’s largest and fastest boat to line honours. 74-year old Neil Pryde, a racing sailor for 60 years, guided his 52-ft Hi Fi to outright victory for the second time in four years, and with a victory back in 1988 became the first skipper to win the race on handicap three times.

The 27th Rolex China Sea Race welcomed 34 boats, the highest number since the turn of this century. 'We’re back to the numbers where the race was in yesteryear,' explained Joachim Isler, Commodore of organizers the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club, 'the growth is due to the popularity of yachting, the support we get from Rolex and the fact that Rolex gives the race more interest to overseas competitors. This is the oldest and most meaningful offshore race in the region.'

Overseas entries totalled seven. Bryon Ehrhart’s TP52 Lucky from the United States was one of the participants expected to make an impact, Lucky having proved her offshore prowess by winning the 606-nm Rolex Middle Sea Race in 2010. In preparation for a stern offshore challenge, Ehrhart reinforced his crew with the inclusion of navigator Adrienne Cahalan, the most experienced female sailor in Rolex Sydney Hobart history, 22 appearances, and multiple line honours victories onboard the all-conquering 100-ft Maxi Wild Oats XI.

Cahalan was charting new waters. 'This is my first time doing the race and indeed sailing in Hong Kong, The Philippines or the South China Sea,' she revealed. 'I’ve sailed with the team before and there is a nice fleet of TP52s, so we’re looking forward to good close, racing.' The TP52 fleet also included Hong Kong entry Freefire and Standard Insurance Centennial, the latter skippered by Ernesto Echauz (overall winner in 1998 and 2008), the only entry from the arrival destination of The Philippines.

Completing the international entry list were boats representing Australia, Singapore and the United Kingdom as well as the first ever crew entirely composed of sailors from mainland China, those onboard Seawolf.

Fischer’s Ragamuffin 90 led the race from start to finish, departing from Victoria Harbour, Hong Kong in decent but not dramatic breeze, on route to a 565-nm journey through the South China Sea to Subic Bay, The Philippines. Her lead on the water was never threatened nor though was the race record set by Karl Kwok on the Volvo 60 Beau Geste in 2000.

Ragamuffin played it relatively safe, staying close to the rhumb line. 'Tactically it wasn’t difficult. The race got a little bit frustrating especially at the end. It was very light, we only saw 18 knots in the last two hours on the approach to the harbour. Until then we never saw breeze over 10 knots,' explained David Witt, boat captain. Witt paid tribute to the crew’s extraordinary skipper. 'He’s amazing isn’t he? 87 years old and he’s sat on the rail all day. There are 22 year olds who could get a bit of inspiration from him.'

On arrival, a relaxed Fischer joked that ‘it was just another yacht race’. 'The modifications we’ve done on this boat helped a lot. Our boat speed was well above the wind speed and that’s good,' he explained after 57 hours and 31 minutes at sea. Fischer is not resting on his laurels, instead focusing on a mouth-watering 2015 campaign which will take in the Rolex Fastnet, the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup and the Rolex Middle Sea Race, all onboard his new Ragamuffin 100. Nobody would bet against him adding to his burgeoning list of triumphs.

Hong Kong resident Neil Pryde first competed in the Rolex China Sea Race in 1968, had won line honours twice and was the overall winner in 1988 and 2010. Like Fischer, his love for the sport has never diminished.

Along with the three TP52s and Geoff Hill’s 72-ft Antipodes, Hi Fi was tipped to challenge for the title. While Ragamuffin cruised to a straightforward line honours success, the battle for overall victory proved to be dramatic. Hi Fi, Lucky and Freefire barely left each other’s side throughout the race. 'Three 52-footers all going the same speed, all alongside each other all the way down. You don’t get yacht racing better than that,' enthused Pryde. 'It was one of the all time classics. I have done this race a lot but I don’t remember one as exciting or as close in the final result. It was exhausting, you could not relax one moment.'


It proved to be the perfect race for a medium size boat. 'We had a period of about three or four hours outside the finish in Subic Bay when it went very light,' continued Pryde, 'but one of the great things about these 52-footers is that when the wind is down to three or four knots these boats still move and that is the difference really. All of the fleet had their park up but these 52s are amazing - they keep sailing at more than the wind speed.'

Charging into the mountainous, sun-kissed approach to The Philippines, Hi Fi and Lucky were practically match racing with spinnakers hoisted. It was a captivating sight. Every move, sail change, tactical decision was crucial. Lucky eventually finished two minutes ahead of Hi Fi but it was not enough; Pryde’s crew enjoyed a 17-minute margin on handicap. And with the chasing fleet becalmed, outright victory was soon confirmed.

'It ranks as one of the more memorable victories we’ve had and we’ve won a lot of races,' confirmed Pryde. 'It means a lot to me, over the past few years I’ve not done a lot of sailing because I’ve had some health issues so to go out and prove we can still do it is a big thing for me personally.'

Elsewhere, other crews revelled in simply finishing the race, none more than Seawolf who arrived in The Philippines to a rapturous reception from their sizeable Chinese following. 'You are out there, other yachts disappear and as you approach The Philippines it is always getting warmer,' explained Peter Forsythe owner of 55-ft Xena, 'there are times when it’s like magic.' A sentiment shared by those who completed the journey in 2014.

For more detailed information about the 2014 Rolex China Sea Race please visit the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club website.

Ancasta Ker 40+ 660x82PredictWind.comBakewell-White Yacht Design

Related Articles

Vendée Globe – Vendee2020Vision – Six best solo sailors selected
Vendée2020Vision helped with the coaching and development of a 10-strong squad of Britain’s top aspirant solo skippers. While in Les Sables d’Olonne competitors continue to stream across the finish line after three and a half months at sea, in Southampton work continues to train up British sailing talent to give them the best chance of competing in the Vendée Globe in four year’s time.
Posted today at 1:15 pm
Extreme Sailing Series– ENGIE and Team Tilt to take wildcard challenge
Headed up by highly experienced offshore sailor, Sebastien Rogues, ENGIE come with valuable experience in the GC32 Following their participation in the inaugural GC32 Championship - also being staged in Muscat - the GC32 Racing Tour teams ENGIE and Team Tilt will compete in the Extreme Sailing Series season opener in Oman in less than two weeks' time.
Posted today at 11:57 am
Invisible Hand In inshore mode – Images by Erik Simonson
Invisible Hand In inshore mode – Images by Erik Simonson Invisible Hand In inshore mode – Images by Erik Simonson
Posted today at 11:31 am
Vendée Globe – Didac Costa takes 14th place
The tenacious, driven Costa succeeded with one of the smallest budgets of 29 skippers who started race on November 6th. The tenacious, driven Costa has succeeded with one of the smallest budgets of the 29 skippers who started the race on November 6th.
Posted today at 9:36 am
Vendee Globe - Foresight Natural Energy Day 109 - Ancient Homer
The wind has died. The one proud mainsail drags lazily back and forth across the cabin top. The wind has died. The one proud mainsail drags lazily back and forth across the cabin top. Even the rippling laughter of the wake down the side of the hull has dulled as Foresight Natural Energy lethargically crawls across the dark disk of the horizon. The bright orange jib is the only flash of colour in a quiet world where a dull lead coloured sea lolls under a pewter sky.
Posted today at 4:36 am
CCA welcomes America's fastest non-stop solo circumnavigator
The CCA is particularly proud of member Rich Wilson’s accomplishment in the just completed Vendée Globe race The Cruising Club of America is particularly proud of member Rich Wilson’s (Marblehead, Mass.) accomplishment in the just completed Vendée Globe race. Sailing solo for nearly 27,500 miles aboard Great American IV, Wilson finished the planet-rounding competition in just over 107 days, returning to the west coast of France on Tuesday February 21, 2017 after having started there on November 6, 2016.
Posted today at 3:44 am
RORC Caribbean 600 - Rambler 88 takes Monohull Line Honours
George David's American Maxi, Rambler 88 finished the 2017 RORC Caribbean 600 on Wednesday 22 February 2017 George David's American Maxi, Rambler 88 finished the 2017 RORC Caribbean 600 on Wednesday 22 February 2017 at 11 hrs 56 mins 17 secs AST taking Monohull Line Honours.
Posted today at 1:14 am
Vendee Globe - Colman progressing in right direction - speaks to BBC
Conrad Colman's pace has not increased substantially in the last 12 hours, his direction has become more direct. Although Kiwi solo sailor Conrad Colman's pace has not increased substantially in the last 12 hours, his direction has become much more direct. After a frustrating passage through an area of light winds, Colman is now heading for a weather system which should allow him to hook in a wind system that will take him to the finish. He spoke to BBC's Radio 4 today:
Posted on 22 Feb
Vendée Globe – Costa to cross Thursday morning for 14th
Progress has remained painfully slow for Kiwi skipper Conrad Colman today as he sails into a wide high pressure ridge Progress has remained painfully slow for Kiwi skipper Conrad Colman today as he sails into a wide high pressure ridge which stands between him and the favourable westerly breezes which should finally allow the jury rigged Foresight Natural Energy to sail more directly towards the French coast and the finish line
Posted on 22 Feb
Sanya awarded Youth Sailing World Championships
World Sailing, the world governing body of the sport is pleased to announce that Sanya, China will host the 2017 edition The 2017 selection process opened in November 2016 after the Israeli Sailing Association exercised the right to withdraw from hosting the 2017 edition as a final contract had not been concluded.
Posted on 22 Feb