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Rolex China Sea Race 2018 – slingshot start.

by Guy Nowell, Sail-World Asia 29 Mar 2018 01:03 PDT
Gathered for the fray. Rolex China Sea Race 2018 © photo RHKYC / Guy Nowell

The Rolex China Sea Race fleet is well on its way to Subic Bay by now, having started the 565nm race yesterday, Wednesday, at 11.20h. From the traditional start line in front of the RHKYC Kellett Island club house overlooking Victoria Harbour, 29 boats contesting the 29th edition of Asia’s premier blue water classic worked their way east and south out of the harbour in 10-12 kts of breeze under cloudy skies.

For anyone out on the water, the surprise was seeing the RP66, Alive, cross tacks with Karl Kwok’s MOD70 Beau Geste at Shau Kei Wan and lead the big tri out through the Lei Yue Mun gap towards Cape Collinson – just. It was a sweet moment for the current China Sea Race record holder, but it was never going to last long. As soon as the in-harbour tacking exercises were over, Beau Geste gathered up her skirts and took off at pace for the Philippines. Latest reports predict arrival at Subic Bay before nightfall today, Thursday. If it comes to pass, it will be the third time that Kwok has held the record.

Actually, just getting to the start line took a bit of doing… only 13 days ago Beau Geste was languishing in Kosirae in the Western Pacific with rudder bearing problems. Delivery skipper Larry Jamieson and a thoroughly committed crew flew in to Kosirae (yup, I had to look it up on Google Earth, too!), fixed the bearing, and sailed 3,000nm to Hong Kong in 10 days, arriving at the RHKYC early on Sundat evening and just in time for Monday’s Welcome Reception. A sterling effort indeed.

Whilst Defender (Alive) and Pretender (Beau Geste) looked as if they were having a private dogfight at the pin end, the noisy action was all down near the Committee Boat, with lots of noise, a bump (Ambush and Sitka), and three boats OCS. And then it was game on to find the fastest route past North Point, Tai Koo Shing and Shau Kei Wan to Lei Yue Mun. After that, there was the close reach past Cape Collinson and Shek O as far as TCS3 (to port, of course) and then everyone hardened up just a shade to leave Waglan Island to starboard. (After that of course, ‘Waglan Rules’ come into play – stealth mode for the whole fleet, so to speak).

Except for the Yellowbrick trackers, feeding back the info every 30 minutes. A couple of hours later, and MOD70 Beau Geste was all lit up and losing the fleet at 25kts and somethimes more, with Alive trying to hang at half the speed. Before the race Karl Kwok said, “If we can break the record, it will be merely incremental, not something dramatic.” Hmm. First thing this morning and Beau Geste was being forecast a finish before dark today – that would be something of the order of an 18-hour trip, and that’s hardly ‘incremental’. With a bandit like Beau Geste on the scene (and, we hear, ORMA60 Team Australia heading to Asia very shortly), the RCSR Committee may like to start thinking about splitting the race records into monohull and multihull.

At time of writing, Beau Geste has ground to a near halt some 85nm northwest of Subic, and are going to need a lot of puff to finish in daylight today. Alive have reported ‘cruising’ conditions, “flat water, and we haven’t had a sail change since the start.”

A substantial gallery of start-day images can be found at www.guynowell.com

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