The Hong Kong Observatory forecast easterlies all the way from Hong Kong to Khaosiung for the inaugural Taiwan Straits Race, but experienced offshore sailors in this part of the world generally reckon that a second opinion is a good idea.
Ambush slipped into the lead right from the start of the race, and departed Hong Kong on port with the rest of the fleet, but then surprised everyone who was watching the Yellowbrick tracking system by heading severely south and away from the rhumb line. 'We’d done the homework before we started,' said Russ Parker. 'All our route planning was done pre-race. The GRIB files showed more pressure to the south, and a big hole about two-thirds of the way along the track. When we started getting lifted on port it looked as if we could crack sheets and sail straight to the finish – but we still stuck to the game plan and went deep south. It paid, handsomely.'
The gain was made by missing out the soft patch. Surprise! 'We went south with a jib, and then went to jip top and staysail as we started to bear north again. And then the Code 0. It was just a matter of staying in the pressure and sailing fast,' said Parker. 'Actually the Deckman wanted us to go even further south, but we figured that if we seemed to be sailing into the hole all we had to do was dig south again and go further round it. The difference was between sailing in 5-10kts up near the rhumb line, or 10-15 knots below it. No contest.'
For the most part it was an uneventful trip - Vice Commodore Joachim Isler even admitted to having smuggled a couple of bottles of red wine on board to go with dinner! There was a brief moment when the jib top/staysail took the brunt of a 40kt gust (which didn’t do them much good) but it didn’t last long. From then on the race was with a Code 0, and a straight line into Khaosiung which greeted the 'Boys on the ‘Bush' with a torrential downpour of classically tropical proportions.
Arrival in Taiwan was efficient and well-organised, thanks to the head of the Chinese Taipei Yachting Association, Mr Ting. Immigration and port clearance was snappy and slick, and there were cold beers and hot food on the dock, ready and waiting. 'Apart from the rain, it couldn’t have been better,' said co-owner Drew Taylor. (Now that’s something for everyone to take note of for ‘next time’). Ambush was on a tight schedule – and the boat was tidied up, fuelled, iced, watered, vittled and cleared out again and sent on her way back to Hong Kong in just a couple of hours.
Ambush finished the race at 1249hrs on Monday, and the next boat home was Nick Southward’s J/109 Whiskey Jack at 0739hrs Tuesday – a massive 19 hours on the water and 13 hours on corrected time.