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Maritimo 2023 S-Series LEADERBOARD

Double-Handed Racing in the Rolex China Sea Race

by Vivian Ngan 30 Mar 2023 02:49 PDT 5 April 2023
Rolex China Sea Race © Rolex / Daniel Forster

Shorthanded sailing has become increasingly popular in recent years during the Covid era and also partly in credit to the Mixed Two Person Keelboat Offshore Event having once been proposed as the 10th sailing event at the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.

This year two local teams from Hong Kong will be joining the double-handed division in the Rolex China Sea Race, which departs 5 April from Hong Kong.

Father and son team, Philippe and Cosmas Grelon were the sole double-handed entry in the 2018 edition of the Rolex China Sea Race. They made the 565nm crossing from Hong Kong to Subic Bay in the Philippines in just over 82 hours; placing them second in their division on their 35-foot boat Decathlon Aya. This time they will participate again in the double-handed division in their second and probably their last China Sea Race together.

The Grelon family have lived in various countries over the years and moved to Hong Kong in 2007. At age 12, Cosmas enrolled at the French International School here and started taking sailing lessons. By 2011, he had gone on to win the RS500 World Sailing Championship in Weymouth and represented Hong Kong at the 2012 Asian Sailing Championship racing in the 29er class and was the 29er Hong Kong National Champion in 2013 and 2014.

The father-son duo will compete on a Beneteau Figaro 3; a high-performance sailing yacht that was designed specifically for short-handed offshore racing. This innovative yacht is the first production one-design monohull fitted with foils, which is said to greatly enhance its speed and stability.

The duo recently delivered the boat from its base in Kaohsiung, Taiwan and the journey to Hong Kong took the team 44 hours in fairly good weather conditions, and they clocked a top speed of 18kts under spinnaker.

Cosmas looks forward to the China Sea crossing, "I look forward to seeing how the Figaro 3 goes compared to the other more traditional boats (as we have foils). I also look forward to doing this with my father as this may be the last one we do together. "

Cosmas also shared this secret weapon for offshore racing, "Bring an inflatable pillow! Many people underestimate the power of a small pillow and it helps sleep and recovery so much, which is essential on a long race lasting several days! "

The other double handed entry for the China Sea Race comes in the form of Taiwanese boat, Daybreak, a Taswell 56, a Bill Dixon-designed fast ocean cruiser built by Ta Shing shipyard with Ryan Mann and Casey Benjamin's on board for their first Rolex China Sea Race. Skipper Ryan Mann is an experienced short-handed sailor having clocked up over 8500nm in and around Southeast Asian and Australian waters. While his experience centres around passages, this will be his first foray into shorthanded offshore racing. "Double-handed sailing is challenging itself, things like sleeping and sail change are difficult for two people on a boat of this size, but we are looking forward to testing ourselves with fewer people, the decompression and shift of time at sea and the promise of adventure. Hopefully some good wind on the beam." said Mann.

His good friend and co-skipper for the event will be Casey Benjamin who regularly sails his own 46-foot yacht shorthanded in and around Hong Kong. Together with Mann, this duo will embark on the 565nm race putting their wealth of experience on the line to be tested by the conditions thrown up to them in the Rolex China Sea Race.

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