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Hong Kong to Puerto Galera Yacht Race - Race start - All rather exciting!

by RHKYC Media 17 Apr 02:57 PDT
Hong Kong to Puerto Galera Yacht Race start © Takumi Photography

The IRC fleet in the inaugural Hong Kong to Puerto Galera Yacht Race got away this morning at 1120hrs in Hong Kong's iconic Victoria Harbour. The Race takes competitors 650nm across the South China Sea to Puerto Galera on the Philippines island of Mindoro. 12 boats were on the start line with the three boats from the HKPN division having set off yesterday.

With a port and starboard incident after the start which resulted in Surfdude retiring with bow damage, Blackjack has made her way back to Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club where she is currently undertaking repairs to her port side and hopes to be on her way as soon as possible.

At soon as they got back to the Club, Glenn Smith commented on their plans, "We are getting the surveyor to come here, we have already taken a look at the hole and believe it's repairable. It all depends on the final inspection and if the surveyor thinks it will be seaworthy, we will go! We will be delayed maybe 10 hours, we might miss the party after all, but at least we will have done the race." Boat repairs however were completed in under four hours and the boat signed off as seaworthy. Said Smith on the quick turnaround "it's super right? Great service from Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club is what I say."

With Blackjack back in the Race, the fleet comprises 14 boats racing across five divisions with over 130 sailors on board from 14 countries including Australia, Austria, Belgium, United Kingdom, Canada, China, France, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Philippines, Russia, Singapore, Sweden and USA. Today's boats started in a very light easterly breeze with an ebb tide helping the yachts out of the harbour. Once the yachts passed Junk Bay, slightly more pressure filled in from the north-east.

To prepare for the event, competitors go through a stringent preparation period, during which all participants are scrutineered to ensure that they satisfy the World Sailing Category 1 Offshore Sailing Regulations (with RORC prescriptions). The biggest push to get ready for the start was by far by the Philippines entry Ernesto Echauz's newest yacht the R/P 75 Standard Insurance Centennial which only just had their new mast put in a few days before the start. Yesterday Ernesto commented, "We were only able to practise with our new sails this afternoon. There are still a few minor kinks which need to be sorted out before the start of the race. Nevertheless, we are quite happy on the performance of the newly refitted yacht and would hope for a good maiden voyage."

Alan Tillyer (Guilty) on board Geoff Hill's Santa Cruz 72 Antipodes, who has done more South China Sea crossings than most summed up the forecast, "It's going to be an interesting weather scenario. Not unprecedented; I've seen similar weather forecasts to this. The winds are going to be light to moderate as we leave Hong Kong and increasingly go from the east to the south, so we'll be headed on port tack and then after about 24 hours we'll then have to tack over. That gradual heading as it becomes more southerly is going to be potentially quite tricky - there could be rain showers and storms so there will be modifications on that; we may have to put in short tacks to get around rain clouds. As the Hong Kong Observatory representative said in the skippers briefing, there is a trough of low pressure and this is causing a little instability so that's going to make the first part of the race very interesting and then when we get over towards the Philippines, unfortunately it's a very light wind scenario."

The early HKPN starters are currently cruising along at around 7kts have knocked off around 180nm off their journey. In the lead is Michael Ashbrook's Sitka, a Jeanneau 469 followed by Dean Chisholm's Hanse 40 Darling and Eddy Lee's Sense 46 Generations. Thanks to the wonders of modern technology, we are able to receive updates from the boats. Just after 1300hrs HK time Michael Ashbrook reported that Sitka was "trucking along nicely. Boat and crew all safe. Clear skies and good winds. We kept the power up last night full main and code 0 - think we made good time on the other boats. Heading to lighter winds tomorrow so will re-evaluate our strategy at some point soon. Was good to get off the coast and put some miles behind us."

Generations has also checked in reporting "all good 15.4Kt AWS and good visibility".

To keep up with the racing, follow the YB Tracker or race alongside the fleet at sailonline.org. Regular updates can be seen on the Club's Facebook page.

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