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An interview with Iris Yang on the RHKYC's 2020 Around the Island Race

by David Schmidt 4 Nov 2020 08:00 PST November 8, 2020
Racecourse action at the royal Hong Kong Yacht Club's Around the Island Race © Image courtesy of RHKYC/ Isaac Lawrence

Winter's chill might be starting to encroach on much of North America, but fall is typically one of the sunniest and driest times of year in Hong Kong. More importantly for sailors, early November is also when the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club hosts their annual Around the Island Race (November 8, 2020), which is known for attracting vessels both mighty and modest, and in significant numbers.

Impressively, this popular, 26 nautical mile race regularly draws fleets that are north of 200 boats, and it typically involves more than 1,500 participants who hail from all of Hong Kong's major sailing, yachting and rowing clubs.

The event is open to beach cats, dinghies, racing keelboats, sportboats, and cruising boats, making it one of the most class-inclusive regattas afloat. While the NOR lists eligible vessels ranging from IRC keelboats to Lasers and 29ers, it also states that, "the race committee may consider applications for entry from other classes of boat."

While this sounds inviting, interested racers are advised—via the NOR—that the event isn't for novices. Moreover, teams interested in racing aboard small multihulls and dinghies must have their club, class or association endorse their entry form, effectively ensuring that they are experienced enough to take on all 26 nautical miles of racecourse in any one of Mother Nature's various meteorological moods.

I checked in with Iris Yang, the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club's assistant sailing manager, via email, to learn more about this inclusive circumnavigation race.

What kind of entry numbers are you seeing this year? Also, how do these stack up to previous editions of the race?

We are expecting over 220 boats for this event and we think we will have a higher entry list this year as people have not been able to go sailing for some time and they are desperate to be on the water again.

Looking at the entry list, what boats and classes do you expect to be the most competitive this year? Also, what makes these boats and classes hot?

This year we will have four TP52s competing, all from different generations. This will be the first race [where] the four boats will all line up together, and it will be interesting to see if having experience sailing on the boat will outshine the newer generation boats.

What kinds of logistical problems—if any—have you and the other event organizers encountered this year in light of the pandemic?

None really - the current government social-distancing requirements (i.e. mandatory mask wearing and gathering in groups of no more than four people) have been in place for some time, so everyone is used to it and happy to do their part to beat the pandemic.

Do you have any insider tips that you'd like to share with first-time racers? What about returning racecourse veterans?

Watch out for all the prohibited zones and make sure you go through the gates and leave the marks to the correct side. Watch out for all the prohibited first!

Weather-wise, what kind conditions can sailors expect to encounter on the racecourse in mid-November?

Normally we have steady northeasterly breeze in November, [and] the [regatta's] date was chosen with the best tide.

When you consider the race's 26-nautical-mile course, what do you see as its biggest challenges? Also, what about its tactical opportunities?

Some race areas are rather sheltered and, at some point of going around the island, there is going to be at least one [wind] hole. Avoiding the wind holes as much as possible or getting out of them as quickly as possible will leave you with a good opportunity to win overall.

What kinds of safe-play pandemic tactics are you expecting from the racers on the water? Are we talking about standard-issue things like face masks and hand sanitizer, or will crews also be expected to self-quarantine ahead of the race? Also, do you expect that this will be a highly competitive event, or—given the pandemic—is the spirit of this year's event more about getting out on the water for some friendly racing?

We will have the same precautionary measures for this event as with other events. I don't think the pandemic would have much effect on the competitiveness nature of the event. However, a lot of the cruising boats do take this opportunity to take their friends and family out and race in a friendly environment, [and] for some boats, this race is the only race that they participate in [during] the year.

Crew[members] will not need to self-quarantine ahead of the race, Hong Kong has an extremely low infection rate and Hongkongers closely follow Government advice such as wearing face masks both indoors and outdoors.

Can you tell us about any efforts that you and the other regatta organizers have made to try to lower the regatta's environmental footprint or otherwise green-up the regatta?

The event is designated a clean regatta by Sailors for the Sea. We will ask the sailors to bring their own reusable water bottles and put all recyclables in the appropriate bins around the Clubhouse. The Club stopped selling beverages in single-use plastic bottles and using straws or plastic bags [in] 2016.

Anything else that you'd like to add, for the record?

The current records for both monohull and multihull were set in 2013. The multihull Aberdeen Extreme 40, skippered by Nick Moloney, completed the race in two hours, 13 minutes, 11 seconds, and Frank Pong's Jelik finished the race in two hours, 29 minutes, and 29 seconds.

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