Anyone who has sailed a race in Hong Kong harbour and watched a cruise liner pass straight through the racing fleet with a minimum of fuss might be excused for wondering why all traffic out of the Subic Bau Yacht Club marina had to come to a standstill to allow a USN ship leave her berth. After all it’s not as if there were a shortage of space in Subic Bay. But ‘wait’ was the call, and wait we did until permitted to proceed. And then it was out across the bay for a last day’s crack at two windward/leeward courses for IRC Racing and IRC cruiser/Racing, and another visit to the unexploted corners of this impressive stretch of water for the two-boat PY Cruising class.
On these occasions RO Jerry Rollin spends a lot of time looking over his shoulder – or, more accurately, out to sea, seeking the first signs of the incoming sea breeze that is going to disrupt the easterly in which races start at 1030h or thereabouts (dependent on the movements of the US Navy).
Today it didn’t happen – the sea breeze, that is. Instead, two races went away in a solid 10kts, even if it was a bit left-right shifty, but never enough to demand an actual mark change. ‘Challenging’, someone called it, but then if there were no challenge every Tom, Dick or Harry could win a yacht race, right? Hi Fi took off at great pace, and was still leading at the second top mark when a sustained puff in the 17kts department launched her down the final run. Ree Fire was just too late at the mark to get the benefit, and Team Pryde cruised home to a comfortable win. Behind them, Subic Centennial got up and raced for almost the first time this week, but was still unable to hold off EFG Bank Mandrake on corrected time. Star performer was Sel Side Dream, who slotted in to second place, putting a points buffer between Hi Fi (1st) and EFG Bank Mandrake (3rd). Hi Fi now had a 2-point lead after five races, and a drop was about to come into play.
All five IRC Racing class boats came into the start of the last race of the regatta with pace. Some of them had their time-on-distance better sorted than the others – Hi Fi, EFG Bank Mandrake and Free Fire were all caught OCS, and the ensuing turn-about looked very much like the dodgem rink at the local fun fair. Eventual winner, coming from behind in a catch-up race, was EFG Bank Mandrake, and the worst loser was Hi Fi, recording an uncharacteristic last place. However, the sixth race allowed a discard for the series, and Hi Fi dropped the race leaving herself, once more, one point ahead of EFG Bank Mandrake and winner of the Racing class for the 2012 Commodore’s Cup.
One division back, and Ridgely Balladres’ Platu 25, Frantic, took race 5 to make their series score 1,2,1,1,1 and allowing them to duck the last race and still claim a series win. In the PY Cruising division Viggo Lisson (Selma) cleaned up 1,1,1,1 against David McKenna (Rapparee XXX) on 2,2,2,2. No contest.
For sure, plenty of people had plenty of fun over four days of racing, but it is difficult to get away from the impression of what was once a 5-star event having slipped into the Doldrums. 11 boats in three divisions hardly justifies calling the Commodore’s Cup 'one of the most anticipated regatta events… and one of the world’s top offshore racing competitions.' (This is a quote from a press release obtained at a ‘Press Conference’ this afternoon, at which no questions were taken. Actually, it was a press briefing rather than a conference, and was firmly aimed at non-sailing media. The written release also claims that the Commodore’s Cup 'has grown in following and prestige (since 2008).' This is simply not true.)
The awards and presentations dinner tonight was notable for its interminably rambling and self-congratulatory speeches, in which everyone was thanked and lauded, including some that had little or nothing to contribute to the event, and some that had markedly failed to perform at all. A notable exception when the gold stars were handed out was the Race Management team led by RO Jerry Rollin, who did a first class job. Simon Powell, owner and skipper of Sell Side Dream, said 'the regatta management on the water was excellent. What happened to the event management off the water?
The Commodore’s Cup has a rich and colourful history behind it, but is now in danger of fading away to nothing. It has a great venue and great sailing waters, but a the moment it is not even enough of an event to attract local entries, and quite evidently does not have an image sufficient to detain the majority of the China Sea Race fleet in Subic Bay for a few days after the long race from Hong Kong. If the will is there, it’s fixable. It needs better communications with the outside world, and off-the-water management interested in more that just patting each other on the back. In short, it needs to deliver. This year we understand the SBYC to be largely ‘under new management’, and significant investment has been made in regatta gear such as marks, GPS units, ground tackle and so on. That’s a very good start. Now the management needs to address the organization, management and communications issues that go with the whole programme, and try to drag an event with a great deal of potential back from the brink of collapse.
Perhaps if the Commodore’s Cup management paid a visit to a few of the other markedly successful regattas in the Asia region they might get the idea. The point, as ever, is to deliver to the sailors that which they want from a regatta (racing, rum, and entertainment) rather than using the event to create spurious political capital for the organisers.
We are now looking forward to the Top of the Gulf Regatta (4-8 May) more than ever.
1 Hi Fi ((1,3,1,5,1,5*) 9
2 EFG Bank Mandrake (3,2,3*,1,3,1) 10
3 Sell Side Dream (4*,1,4,2,2,2) 11
4 Free Fire (2,5*,2,4,4,3) 15
5 Subic Centennial (6,4,5,6,5,6*) 24
1 Frantic (1,2,1,1,1,5*) 6
2 Selma Star (2,1,3,4*,2,2) 10
3 Body Shot (3,3,2,2,3*,1) 11
4 Alexa (4,4,4,3,4*,3) 18
1 Selma (1,1,1,1) 4
2 Rapparee XXX (2,2,2,2) 8
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by Guy Nowell, Sail-World Asia
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4:55 PM Sat 14 Apr 2012GMT
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