Over the last 28 years, without a doubt Neil Pryde has been the most successful as well as the most prolific competitive big boat sailor in Asia. Consider the roll call since he started racing with Ray Banham on the Castro 36 Sunstreaker in 1983 (Pryde supplied the sails, and drove). In fact, he has collected 49 regatta trophies in that space of time.
Pryde has won the Phuket King’s Cup four times, the Raja Muda Selangor International Regatta six times and the Singapore Straits Regatta six times, too. Those three regattas make up the Lipton Perpetual Cup, which Pryde has won eight times. Then there are wins at the Koh Samui Regatta (twice), Phuket Raceweek (once), Top of the Gulf Regatta (once), the China Sea Race (1988, 2010), the San Fernando Race (1983) and the Hong-Kong Vietnam Race (twice). The Hainan Race started as the Hong Kong-Sanya Race, and Pryde won that in 1998, along with China Raceweek the same year (and again in 2000, 2005, and 2011), the Corum Cup in 1994 and the China Coast Regatta in 1993, 1997, 2001, 2005, 2006 and 2011. He put his name on the Omega Asian Yachting Circuit in 2003, the Asian Yachting Grand Prix in 2005, 2006, 2009 and 2012, the President’s Cup in 2004.
Of course, this impressive track record wasn’t all achieved with the same boat – after Sunstreaker there was a Farr 40, Steadfast, built to the last iteration of the IOR rule; another Farr 40, Hi Flyer, built as an IMS boat before that rule was ‘discontinued’ in favour of IRC; Hi Fidelity, a Sydney 46 that became a Welbourne 46 when her hull was replaced – and last but not least Hi Fi, which started life as a Farr 52OD and then morphed into a Welbourne 52 as first the hull and then the rig, deck and keel were all replaced over a period of time.
Now Pryde is looking for a slightly smaller boat, and Hi Fi is – as the expression goes – seriously for sale. ‘Hi Fi is a great boat,’ says Pryde, ‘but I am thinking that a 46-footer would suit better right now. It’s a size that can more easily hold her time against the 40-footers that are increasingly making up the bulk of the competition in Asia, but still run with the bigger boats, the 50-footers. I have very happy memories of Hi Fidelity, we won so many events with the Sydney/Welbourne 46 that it’s a size that I’d really like to go back to again. And most of all I’d like to simplify the organisation of our Asian campaigning…’
In addition to thinking about his own sailing programme in Asia, right now Pryde has Olympic matters very much in mind. ISAF’s recent decision to drop the RS:X windsurfing class from the Rio (2016) Olympic programme in favour of a kiteboarding event has not proved universally popular – ‘I don’t think that kiteboarding is suitable for the Olympics at this stage’ says Pryde. ‘I think it was a bad decision, and I think that ISAF have realized that. It’s very hard to overturn a policy statement like that, so I think that we may be looking at some sort of compromise arrangement in the future. The problem with kiteboarding at the moment is that it is a very amorphous branch of sailing – there are no defined classes, it is still very much an evolving discipline. Most of the kiteboarding going on today is just boardies having fun whizzing about. There’s very little racing, and competitions are mainly freestyle events – flips and tricks. Of course that’s not bad, per se, but Olympic sailing is definitely all about racing. The rules haven’t been drawn up yet, but ISAF are proposing a box rule for boards and kites, and that means that the whole thing will very quickly become an ‘arms race,’ which is probably not what is wanted. There is an evolving Race scene with a box rule defining the equipment but so far a relatively small minority of kiteboarders are participating.’
Those who paid attention to the introduction of kiteboarding at the Phuket King’s Cup last year will remember that the invited professionals managed to race on only one day out of the six available – anything below 8 kts and the kiteboards were either stuck on the beach or else ‘hanging out’ in the safety boats – kiteboards do not launch from the water.
‘I also feel that dropping windsurfing is a slap in the face for Asian sailing – and Asia is just where sports organisations want to be right now. Windsurfing has done more than any other sailing discipline to get Asia out on the water. Just take a look at who’s doing what in the Olympics next week.’
So here’s the thing – Asia’s no 1 big boat sailor is changing gear, and although we don’t think that’s likely to slow him down at all, there’s a very quick Welbourne 52 looking for a new owner. Sail it like Neil does, and you too could be looking for a bigger trophy cabinet!
We looked at exactly who is doing what among the Asian nations at the Olympics. You can draw your own conclusions:
Chinese Taipei RS:X Men
Hong Kong RS:X Men, RS:X Women
Japan RS:X Men, RS:X Women, Laser Radial, 470 Men, 470 Women, 49er
Korea RS:X Men, Laser, 470 Men
PRC RS:X Men, RS:X Women, Laser, Laser Radial, Finn, 470 Men, 470 Women
Singapore Laser, Laser Radial
Thailand RS:X Men, RS:X Women, Laser
by Sail-World Asia
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12:20 PM Tue 24 Jul 2012GMT
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