It was an unremittingly grey day on Hong Kong harbour yesterday – just the sort of weather to make you go back to the Clubhouse and spend the day in the bar. There was a little breeze, but not a lot, and visibility in any direction was probably less than 2,000m. And not even that, upwards. Maybe it was a low cloud base or maybe it was a mizzling sea mist, but in any case it was a good way to make the RHKYC Spring Regatta look very grey indeed. It never actually rained, but felt like it was going to – all day.
The best breeze was at the beginning of proceedings, when a reported 12 kts got the combined fleets steaming up the harbour towards the Shau Kei Wan mark and other points east, with the first race completing without incident.
Then there was a interlude – quite a long interlude - while another fleet of boats arrived and strewed themselves all up and down the main harbour fairway and occasionally in towards Hung Hom and Kowloon Bay. This was a fleet of deep sea fishing boats (purportedly all from Hong Kong, but with a surprising number sporting mainland Chinese registration numbers) engaged in a protest parade against the HK Government’s desire to shut down the industry in Hong Kong altogether. How the HK Government can issue a Licence to Race to the RHKYC - and a Licence to Demonstrate to the massed Fishermen's Union (or whatever it is called) - on the same day, is a mystery.
But when it comes to the fishing industry, the Government does have a point – the waters around Hong Kong are massively over-fished, and fish stocks are practically non-existent to the point where fishermen have to travel ever-larger distances looking for ever-smaller catches. And at the same time, pair-trawling is a rapaciously destructive way of fishing – a bit like bulldozing untold acres of woodland in the hope of finding the very last squirrel, and incidentally killing all the other wildlife at the same time.
However, the fishermen also have a point: how would any of us respond to being told that, starting tomorrow, our livelihoods were banned? 'The garment industry is shut down as of now.' 'Right, that's it, no more Photography allowed.' 'Stockbroking, banking, insurance and accountancy, all banned as of tomorrow.'
Ouch. That would spoil your week, right?
There was nothing remotely aggressive about the demonstration, but many sailors – especially those on smaller boats such as Flying 15s and Dragons – agreed that being corralled into Kowloon Bay by a wall of darn big boats was really quite menacing.
Anyway, the long and short of it was that a steady tide of fishing boats from both ends of the harbour met in the middle – an estimated 250 or more – and then after a hiatus of something over 90 minutes, started to trickle away to the west, leaving the eastern end of the harbour free for another race.
Delayed as it was, and with the weather turning from dark gunmetal grey to even darker battleship grey, RO Simon Boyde signalled one course for all divisions, giving himself the option to shorten course to two laps for the big/faster boats, and a single one for the smaller/slower competitors.
Good call, but it was still distinctly gloomy by the time everyone was back at the Clubhouse. Quite possibly some of the smaller boats had never been as far as the Shau Kei Wan mark before, so there was an adventure in the making!
By the time the formalities of the Protest Room were dealt with, it was almost 2000 hrs – rather late for a harbour regatta prize giving, but nobody seemed to mind as the free bar was already open. Sailing Manager Alex Johnston read out the names, and Race Officer Simon Boyde gave away the glassware and the silverware. One way and another, and in spite of the murkiest weekend imaginable, a good time was had by all.
Big Boats IRC A Blondie IV Helmuth Hennig
Big Boats IRC B Vixen Peter McCaffrey
Big Boats HKPN No One Else Jack Ng
Impala Taxi Florence Kan
J/80 Tigrina Andrew Moore
Pandora Solstice K W Chair
Dragon Eaux Vives Joseph Chu
Ruffian Schannuleke Edwin van den Berge
Etchells Swedish Blue Ante Razmilovic
Sportsboat Sky’s The Limit Gideon Mowser
Flying Fifteen Kerfuffle Carlyon / Lucy
Full Results at: http://www.rhkyc.org.hk/default.aspx?c=399