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Hong Kong Raceweek 2019 - blow, blow, softer, BLOW!

by Suzy Rayment 20 Feb 23:09 PST 14-17 February 2019
Opening Ceremony. Hong Kong Raceweek 2019. © RHKYC / Guy Nowell

The 6th edition of Hong Kong Race Week shows the event has come of age. Without any doubt Asia’s premier dinghy sailing event, and a constituent event of the ASAF Youth Cup, 211 entries had 239 sailors from 10 nations out on the water - China, Chinese Taipei, Cambodia, India, Macau, Hong Kong and first-time entries Guam, Myanmar, Norway and Sweden.

Given the international nature of this event, the Hong Kong Government has now designated Hong Kong Raceweek a “Tier 1 Sport” status, meaning that subsequent editions will be receiving additional support and funding from the Hong Kong Government Mega Sports Fund. Hooray, indeed! Paul Cheng, Principlal Assistant Secretary for Home Affairs (Recreation and Sport), officiated at the closing ceremony. He acknowledged that Hong Kong is surrounded by water, and that sailing should receive more recognition. “Sailing has changed a lot in recent years, and the Volvo Ocean Race Stopover last year brought the sport to the attention of a wider audience. Now is the time to grow the facilities and the events. Sailing is an affordable sport that is open to all age groups.” Cheng went on to say that he was “very impressed that young children as young as 6 years old can be out there in a boat on their own. It certainly is a great training ground for independence and decision making skills.”

The fleet of 211 dinghies (Optimists, RS Feva, 420, Laser Radial, Laser 4.7, 29er and 2.4mR (the latter including both able and disabled sailors) was backed up by team of over 130 volunteer Race Officers, International Jury, safety and mark boat drivers who turned out for four days of racing. Regatta Chairman Peter Davies said, “This year was one of the best events ever, and we are truly grateful for the support and assistance from the Hong Kong Government, the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club, and our sponsors Anglo Eastern Group who for the past three years have supported the event financially, thereby making it possible to grow the event internationally. Davies also thanked Peter Cremers, CEO of Anglo Eastern, for their support, and announced that Anglo Eastern had generously gifted 10 Lasers which will substantially expand the racing fleet and increase the opportunities for overseas competitors to charter yachts in the future.

It was blowy on days one and two, and sunny and softer on day three. Dire predictions of a big blow from the HK Observatory came to pass on the closing day of racing. Breeze at a solid 18 kts pretty much everywhere was spiced up with bullets at 35kts out of Stanley making for some seriously challenging conditions. The youngest Optimist Green Fleet sailors were prudently confined to shore or sent out watch the racing from the comfort of spectator boats. The Optimist, RS Feva and 2.4mR racetracks moved to Repulse Bay, and the Laser 4.7, Laser Radial, 29er and 420s moved to Stanley Bay to find more sheltered waters. Even so there were plenty of capsizes and retirements recorded throughout the day. The 29er fleet only got one race in before gusts exceeded their class wind limit and they were sent back to base. The final winners of the class were Hong Kong’s Malo Kennish and Anatole Martin with an impressive 11 wins from 13 races.

Hong Kong’s Eloi Defline and Thibault Minne came out four points ahead in the 420 fleet. Hong Kong’s Duncan Gregor and Matthew Clark recorded a very close second after a week-long battle with both teams exchanging successive first or second positions, race after race. The Laser 4.7s class was won by Hong Kong’s Patrick Ziteng Feng, followed by India’s Rammilan Yadav and Chinese Taipei’s Chi Yu Wu, with China’s Xinran Chen being the first female in the fleet. In the Laser Radial fleet, Chinese Taipei’s Hsiu Chu Daniel Huang came in first, followed by Hong Kong’s Stan Picard and Hong Kong’s Stephanie Norton, who was also top female competitor in the division. “Competing against the boys in strong wind conditions is very tough. They have at least a 10kg advantage, which makes them super-quick upwind.”

Taking the win in the biggest fleet of the regatta was Norway’s Optimist sailor Julia Jacobsen, with a commanding performance that included five bullets from 12 races. “It's been really fun the past few days. It's been exciting to see such a big line up of international competitors. I met at lot of new people from other Clubs and also overseas sailors from India and China. Where next? In the future, I hope to qualify for the 2019 Optimist Worlds.” In the 2.4mR, parasailor Chi Yueng Puk came first for the second year running in front of Yuen Wai Foo. In the RS Fevas, Hong Kong’s Johan van den Berg and Riccardo Tocco sailed their way to victory over Macau’s FeiChi Cai and YuJun Chen.

In the Optimist Green Fleet, which did a total of six races on Friday and Saturday, eight-year-old Felix Mulder claimed first place. Mulder said, “On Friday it was tough and I capsized and I nearly didn't want to go sailing again. Today we had really good winds and everyone was really determined to sail, but it was so windy that nobody got to sail. It's very exciting to win but I also think the other sailors also deserve to win. It's a really fun event and there are sailors from all over and that makes it really great.”

Another special feature of this year’s event was the lucky draw in which the prize was an opportunity to race with renowned Hong Kong sailor Frank Pong on his RP76 racing yacht, Jelik, during next summer's Typhoon Series (run by Hebe Haven Yacht Club). The lucky winner was HK sailor Shaan Mutreja. "You can come, can't you?" asked Pong. "Oh yes!" replied a very thrilled Mutreja.

In closing, Principal Race Officer Barry Truhol said, “Overall it’s been an excellent Hong Kong Race Week, we've had four fantastic race days of competitive racing, and I hope that everyone goes away with good memories and smiles." With the support of the Hong Kong Government this event will continue to grow, but what would help is if the authorities in the Greater Bay Area could work together to reduce some of the barriers that make it difficult to move (or sail) the sports equipment around the region. The sport of sailing is proving popular in Asia and let’s hope it continues that way.

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