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Sail-World Asia: anyone for short-handed sailing?

20/03/2020


The world on hold? AP everywhere.

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AP over A for the whole world - photo © Guy Nowell


Dear Recipient Name

What’s the difference between a postponement and a cancellation? When things started to go awry around here in January, there was plenty of talk of postponements. Now it seems as if event organisers are being more forthright, and announcing ‘cancellations’. The big problem is when you have no idea when the problem that caused the postponement (ie the WuFlu) is going to go away and allow you to run you event. Eventually cancellation seems to be more realistic, and that’s what’s happening now – everywhere, and every five minutes, and now of course it’s not just Asia. US and European regattas are falling by the wayside as governments restrict international mobility and populations are required to self-isolate. This means that the events that fall over first are the international ones: local sailing is to all intents and purposes unaffected. For Club-type activities, it’s pretty much business as usual, and here in Hong there is still plenty of sailing going on for those sailors who are brave enough to venture out. The RHKYC’s class racing programme continues, as does the ABC Waglan Series and the HHYC Monsoon Series. So please stop whingeing and gazing out of the window: get on your boat and go sailing.

2019-20 Clipper Race fleet - photo © Clipper Race
2019-20 Clipper Race fleet - photo © Clipper Race

On the international front, even the Clipper Race has had to throw in the towel. Clipper Ventures marked time as best they could: instead of racing Subic-Sanya-Subic-Zhuhai-Qingdao and then heading off across the Pacific, the programme was changed to be a series of A-to-A races out of Subic, sending the fleet to beyond Taiwan and back again, and out into the South China Sea and back again and never going to China at all. The next leg should have been across the Pacific to Seattle, but nobody wants visitors these days, even if they have done a Pacific crossing which constitutes a pretty severe quarantine period. But what about incoming change crews, I hear you say? Hmmm… You can’t postpone that number of people, and although Clipper claim that the race will restart in 10 months’ time, one wonders how many of those who signed up for the latter part of the circumnavigating race will be able to turn up in January 2021 is anyone’s guess. Right now, there are some 242 crew to get home (22 pax x 11 boats) and a fleet to look after. What a mess.

Singapore Yacht Show 2018. A grand show in a first class setting. - photo © Guy Nowell
Singapore Yacht Show 2018. A grand show in a first class setting. - photo © Guy Nowell

Cancellations of course are not restricted to regattas and races. Onshore events such as boat shows have felt the finger as well. Singapore, Japan, Hong Kong, Sanctuary Cove and more. And not just boat shows: the annual ASMEX (Australian Superyacht, Marine Export & Commercial Marine Industry) Conference has been cancelled for 2020. The funny thing is, all of these events and organisations employ the same copywriter. There’s a standard paragraph which is all about how safety is the first priority, and then some slushy paragraphs about protecting people and so on. The real reason these events are being cancelled is more practical: restrictions on mobility mean that half of the usual crowd either won’t or can’t turn up, and the organisers (being commercial entities) don’t want to lose money. Absolutely fair enough, but why can’t they say so?

Ken Read and Suzy Leech at the 2020 Key West Race. - photo © Sharon Green / Ultimate Sailing
Ken Read and Suzy Leech at the 2020 Key West Race. - photo © Sharon Green / Ultimate Sailing

We have been wondering for a while about falling entry numbers for sailing events. When I sailed my first China Sea Race in 1990, there were 60-odd boats on the start line. Two years ago, and with all the cachet and marketing muscle of Rolex behind it, the same race attracted only 27 entries. Why? There are plenty of theories. Lack of time, bigger boats, disinclination to go offshore, expense and so on. A perennial suggestion is that it is just “too hard” (not to mention more expensive, 30 years on) for an owner to organise crew, gear, scrutineering, rating certification, etc etc. Interestingly enough, so does Ken Read, well-known veteran of America’s Cup and VOR campaigns, and umpteen worlds and regional championships in smaller boats. We were well-tickled to read an interview by Dave Reed (Editor of Sailing World) in which Ken Read says, among other things, “The fact that the Fort Lauderdale to Key West Race—which is only 150 miles and within the sight of land the entire way—has an ocean-race classification is crazy. It adds another layer of onboard safety equipment that isn’t even close to being needed. I know there’s a great reason for all of this stuff, but it is too hard, and until we can simplify everything, it’s not going to improve. It’s been a great lesson learned for me to not actually have staff and have to do it myself.” Read the rest of the interview here: https://www.sailingworld.com/story/racing/ken-read-on-doublehanded-offshore-racing/

Food for thought? Standing by on 72.

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