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Geoff Hill, Matt Humphries, and racing in Asia

by Guy Nowell, Sail-World Asia on 28 Mar 2013
Antipodes, Matt Humphries on the wheel and Geoff Hill standing by - San Fernando Race 2013 RHKYC/Guy Nowell
The 2013 San Fernando Race started yesterday tomorrow, and the weather in Hong Kong was characteristically miserable. It’s the time of year, and it the oft-repeated reason why 24 crews are only too happy to head for the Philippines, a bit of warmth, and some ‘fun in the sun’ as the race has long been advertised.

Biggest boat in the fleet is Antipodes, Geoff Hill’s Santa Cruz 72. Hill has been very visible on the Asian circuit over a number of years, campaigning his Lyons 49 Strewth, and then a TP52 of the same name. Last year a buying trip to the US ended up with him acquiring not only the Dubois 90, Genuine Risk, but also Antipodes, and promptly cleaning up at Antigua Week with the latter.

Before the start, Hill was very much geared up for this, his third San Fernando Race. 'It’s a good race, just as good as the Rolex China Sea Race,' he says. 'And like the CSR, it’s going to be hard. With the scratch boat in the fleet, we know very well that we have to make our time out of Hong Kong while there’s breeze, so as to be in a usable position before we hit the lighter breezes and the familiar ‘Luzon lottery’ as we close the Philippines’ coast. It’s 'Yacht Racing 101' – maximum boatspeed in the right direction.'

Right beside him and working hard to find ‘the right direction’ will be Matt Humphries, a 20-year veteran of the global racing circuit, with five Whitbread/VORs to his name as well as a full deck of Fastnets, Hobarts, and all the other major ocean races. Humphries was on board Syd Fischer’s Ragamuffin Loyal for the 2012 race to Hobart, sailed with Neil Pryde on board HiFi for this year’s Royal Langkawi International Regatta, and then joined Antipodes for the recent Subic-Boracay Series in the Philippines. 'Since then we’ve been working on optimising a few things, and we hope the attention is going to pay off. Big overlapping genoas carry a huge penalty, so among other things we’ve taken a long hard look at our sail inventory. We really need a good runway to stretch our legs, so were hoping for a good blow out of Hong Kong, and taking advantage of it as best we can.'

Hill shares a ‘core crew’ and boat management arrangement with well-known Australian sailor Syd Fischer, with the intention that the three boats owned between them (Ragamuffin Loyal, 100’; Genuine Risk, 90’; and Antipodes, 72’) benefit from seasonally differences in regattas and racing schedules. 'Our recent racing in the Philippines has allowed us to further develop and strengthen the core crew, and a number of the lads based in Australia are keen to be up in Asia as it’s pretty much 'off season' down there at the moment.'

Asked about racing in Asia as compared to elsewhere, Humphries said, 'a race is a race, never mind where it takes place. You have to approach them all the same way, whether it is the San Fernando of the Newport-Bermuda. Never be complacent, and always anticipate a challenge – you’re really competing against Mother Nature!' Hill adds, 'it's the start of the season for us. We're planning on the Koh Samui Regatta (May) and the China Coast (October), and maybe something in China. And most importantly the Hong Kong-Vietnam Race - that really is a world-class event, and we are expecting to have Genuine Risk up in Hong Kong for that as well as a couple of other big boats from Down Under - before we go south for the Raja Muda and the Phuket King's Cup. There's no shortage of racing in Asia, and a lot of it is first class. Good race management, good racing, good locations, and a good social scene! And the Vietnam Race is truly exceptional.'

At press time, Antipodes was leading the San Fernando fleet across the China Sea with 286 nm to go to the finish.

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