As the sun was setting over the horizon on Sanya bay on Thursday evening at the Round Hainan Regatta, a day of close and exciting offshore racing was coming to a close. An 18-strong fleet of boats departed from Wanning earlier in the morning and sailed to Sanya in a tricky 60-nm race that would make tacticians scratch their heads and produce surprises and upsets.
After a slow start in Wanning due to the very light breeze, the fleet picked up pace as the winds got stronger until the race's first waypoint where they completely shut out. The fleet then compressed, the leaders came to a standstill, while the laggards had a unique opportunity to close their gap in real time and notch up in corrected time.
As Malcolm Page commented, 'today's long race was a tricky one. It didn't seem to be a leader's race. The wind would die and people from behind would pass through with more pressure, making things more difficult. Overall, I think our team improved every day, probably except for today where we made things a little bit more difficult for ourselves.'
Ubox managed to keep their lead and went on to take line honours, crossing the finishing line off Sanya Serenity Marina after 9:16 hours, new record time for the race. Vatti were second in real time, with a time of 10:51 hours, but it was the two Dongfeng boats that claimed the two top spots. John Thorn and his Chinese crew got bragging rights over Brian Thompson, the British round-the-world record man, and his teammates by six minutes.
Despite taking third place in the offshore race from Wanning to Sanya, Vatti was the overall winner in the IRC-B1 division, thanks to her performance in the Sanya in-port races and her commanding victory in the offshore race from Sanya to Wanning. Vatti scored two bullets and a second in the three in-port races in Sanya and crossed the finish line off Shi Mei Bay marina in Wanning, more than one hour ahead of second-placed 500 Wan.
For Malcolm Page, the Aloha Cup Round Hainan Regatta was an excellent opportunity to keep building the Vatti team. According to Page, 'every day we took it up another level and became sharper. It takes a little bit of time to put three different nationalities on one boat but we were very successful. My Mandarin vocabulary is a lot stronger now and I'm sure the English level of our Chinese sailors is now much better. It's always good to get a good result and we now feel more confident for the Chinese summer season ahead of us.'
Wang Lei and his crew onboard Ubox had a considerably easier time claiming overall victory in the IRC-B1 division. Entirely crewed by Chinese sailors, the Shenzhen-based boat scored two bullets and a third in the Sanya in-port races and then went on to completely dominate in the first offshore race from Sanya to Wanning. They crossed the finish line after 9:27 hours, four hours in real time ahead of second-placed Haiyi, or a bit more two and a half in corrected.
Ubox set a record time in the Wanning to Sanya offshore leg but, in a situation similar to Vatti's, the tricky conditions favored the smaller boats behind her. The race was won by Liangchuan, a 46 footer that crossed the line two hours later but was ahead by 20 minutes in corrected time.
The IRC-B1 and IRC-B2 divisions proved to be the most competitive ones, providing the closest racing and setting the foundations for another exciting regatta in 2015.