This year’s Hong Kong-Vietnam Race, organised by the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club and starting on 17 October, has already attracted huge interest from overseas competitors, and is shaping up to be a classic in its own right.
In 1996 the first Hong Kong-Vietnam Race attracted 17 entries: that was a pretty good opener for a brand new let’s-go-and-see event. A big bang from the foredeck gun on HMS Plover sent the fleet away on a grey and blustery start to the 656nm race to the pleasant seaside town of Nha Trang, and along the way competitors were delighted to find that this was, indeed, the downhill slide that they had been promised. The Emperor Bao Dai’s summer villa provided the RO with a picturesque location for the finish line, and as soon as they had negotiated the somewhat arcane 1996 Vietnamese Customs and Immigrations formalities sailors were happy to sprawl at the Nha Trang Sailing Club. It was a fabulous race, and a fabulous arrival. SaigonTourist and the denizens of the town proved to be hugely welcoming – after all, departing Vietnam by boat was more de rigeur in those days than arriving.
Next, local sponsor Pepsi had been haranguing the population of Nha Trang with radio advertisements for the scheduled inshore race in front of the beach. It was Tet – the Lunar New Year holiday - and it looked as if the entire population of the town had turned out to watch. Some said there were 30,000 people on the beach, but crowd estimation is an imprecise science, so who knows? There were a lot of people, that’s for sure! There was a live radio link from the Committee Boat to the shore where a commentary in Vietnamese was broadcast to the multitude, as one spectator put it, 'sounding for all the world like an over-excited horse race.'
It was a truly wonderful event, and those of who made that first memorable trip to Nha Trang could hardly wait to do it again. But events conspired against, and the next Hong Kong Vietnam Race was a full eight years later, in 2004, the offshore race at the end of the RHKYC’s no 1 event of the year, the China Coast Regatta. That time, Grant Wharington strolled into town with Skandia Wild Thing, and then cruised off to Vietnam in a mere 42h 45m 41s, a course record that has yet to be beaten.
2006 and 2008 races followed suit, and the race was rapidly attracting not only a loyal following, but also some overseas interest. The 2010 start was delayed by a year when Super Typhoon Megi threatened to cross the race track, but all systems were ‘go’ once more for a re-start in 2011 which involved Ludde Ingvall’s 90’ Maxi Audi Ultra up from Singapore for a crack at the record (she missed it by just under an hour when the wind shut off at the finish), accompanied by Jono Mahoney’s Zanzibar, and Tim Wilson’s graciously classic El Oro.
Now it’s 2013, and the provisional entry list is promising a bigger and more international fleet than ever before. Local boats who just can’t stay away from this race include Sam Chan’s FreeFire. 'We have unfinished business – a damaged mast in 2008 and a broken rudder stock in 2011 mean we haven’t had any good finishes lately'. The Burns/Kinmonth combo EFG Bank Mandrake (King 40) is back for another go, and is joined by Keith Jacobs’ Ker 40 Signal 8. At the moment Redeye (J/145-C, Wayne Thompson) and Sea Monkey (Sense 50, Emmanuel Pitsilis) and Raphael Blot's straight-out-of-the-box superlight superfast MC60 catamaran make up the local contingent.
Already in Hong Kong and waiting to get going (3 months early, they must be keen!) are Steve Manning’s GTS43 Walawala 2 and David Ross’s Ker 40 KukuKERchu – looking for a derby match with Signal 8, no doubt.
There’s yet another Ker 40, Connel McLaren’s Icebreaker, based in New Zealand, and heading to Hong Kong for the sprint to Vietnam, and fresh from winning the 2012 NZ IRC Champs. Add in a bigger Ker design, Jens Kellinghusen’s 51-footer from Germany, and it’s starting to look as if there needs to be a Ker division!
As soon as the Transpac is over, Giovanni Soldini's VO70, Maserati, is expected to continue on across the Pacific to Hong Kong. That shouldn’t take too long! After setting a new Golden Route monohull record (New York-San Francisco, 13,225nm) of just over 47d at the end of last year, the trip from Honolulu will be a stroll and the race to Nha Trang will barely be a trip to the corner shop. And Syd Fischer's Dubois 90, Genuine Risk is in the list too. Now renamed Ragamuffin 90, she is no stranger to Asian waters having walked away with Line Honours in last year's Rolex China Sea Race. Since then she has been back to Australia for a major refit, and will be setting out for the return journey to Hong Kong in September.
Bryon Ehrhart’s TP52 Lucky won IRC Overall in the 2010 Rolex Middle Sea Race. After the Middle Sea he said, 'Stromboli, spewing smoke and lava – you don’t see that in Chicago. This race is a classic.' Soon Lucky will be heading for Hong Kong and another race destined to come a classic, the Hong Kong-Vietnam Race. You don't see many fishermen in basket-weave coracles in Chicago, either - but you do in Nha Trang!
Ray Roberts needs no introduction to sailors on the Asia circuit. Ulumulu, Hollywood Boulevard, and various versions of Evolution, and victories in practically all the Asian majors. Roberts’ latest steed is the TP52 One Sail, formerly Island Fling, and now on its way to Hong Kong from Kota Kinabalu after winning the Borneo International Yachting Challenge.
There are a couple of other ‘maybe’ boats in the list – no doubt RHKYC would welcome another visit from Audi Ultra – and there are reports of a new-build 42-footer for a yet to be disclosed Hong Kong owner and a Perth based hot 36-footer in the starting blocks, but they are not firm entries as yet.
What all this is saying is that the Hong Kong-Vietnam Race 2013 is lining up to launch with a 17-boat fleet on the start line on 17 October. As big an entry as the race has ever seen, and with more international visitors than ever before – indeed, with more international visitors than anyone can remember for any blue water race out of Hong Kong, ever.
Anyone who hasn’t participated in this race is missing out. What other event in the calendar offers over 600nm under spinnaker, with breeze consistently over 20kts? And when the boats arrive at the other end the finish location of Nha Trang is family friendly, and a popular tourist destination in its own right. It also offers a great revictualling point for boats intending to continue on to other seasonal sailing events in Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and Australia. So, China Coast Regatta - Vietnam – Raja Muda – Phuket King’s Cup… you know it makes sense!
Notice of Race and Entry Form may be downloaded from the event website at http://www.rhkyc.org.hk/hkvietnamrace.aspx
Ker 40 IceBreaker - McConaghy Boats
by Guy Nowell, Sail-World Asia
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2:31 AM Thu 11 Jul 2013GMT
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