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Sun Hung Kai & Co. Around the Island Race 2023 (Hong Kong)

by RHKYC Media 12 Nov 2023 01:06 PST 29 October 2023
Sun Hung Kai & Co. Around the Island Race 2023 © RHKYC / Guy Nowell

It’s Hong Kong’s biggest annual Celebration of Sail, the Sun Hung Kai & Co. Around the Island Race, which this year took place on Sunday 29 October. The racecourse is a 26nm clockwise circumnavigation of Hong Kong Island and in ideal conditions, boats race all the way around Hong Kong Island and finish back where they started. And yes, 2023 provided the perfect day! This is when the 'I'm-Not-a-Racer' fleet dusts off the other headsail and packs an extra-big picnic hamper in anticipation of a long day on the water, with no stops for lunch. For anyone bringing a boat from Hebe Haven or Shelter Cove, it really is a long day - deliver, race, deliver... start and finish in the dark.

218 boats took part in the 2023 edition of this classic, and Race Officers David Norton and Inge Strompf-Jepsen set two start lines in front of the RHKYC’s Kellett Island Clubhouse, with the line closest to Kellett Island used to start the day boats and the outer line for the cruiser, racer and beach cat divisions. The first of 17 starts in total began at 0830hrs with the Pandoras, PHS Monohulls and Multihull Cruisers setting off in an easterly breeze of 8-10kts, and the fleet was gone and away through Lei Yue Mun without much delay in the harbour.

Once clear of the harbour and past Cape Collinson, the boats were greeted by a fresh breeze and a sizeable swell running along the Sheung Sze Mun Channel, but the breeze was too far south to give rise to the usual massed parade of spinnakers running down to Cape d’Aguilar. However, the kites went up as boats approached the Bluff Head, and everyone was happy to see the sun appear at around noon. With gusts of up to 15kts it was a sight to behold! Indeed, the lighter boats were able to get 'fully launched' and able to surf on the run towards Stanley Gate, and there were a few exciting moments resulting in some retirements due to broaches.

As the easterly breeze gradually weakened blocked by Hong Kong Island, there was a brief park-up off the Cyberport as the wind dropped to about 3kts, and the fleet squeezed through the Cyberport Gate. It wasn’t the notorious ‘Cyberport Hole’ by any means (and if the gate had 100m to seaward, there wouldn’t have been a pause at all). Once the fleet rounded Green Island, however, the breeze increased a little giving the fleet a fast ride back into the harbour to finish the full circumnavigation. Only nine boats failed to finish before the 17.00 cut off.

Taking the ATI overall win for the second year in a row was Noel Chan’s TP52 Rampage 88, followed by Marcel Liedts' Ker 46 Zannekin in second place and Hobie 16 Big Car helmed by Karl Chan in third overall. In the PHS division, Chris Mang’s Valuable was the overall winner, Alfred Lau’s Easy Breezy II took 2nd place and Shenton Drew’s Athena cruised home for an elegant 3rd.

RO David Norton was happy. "We started off with a great forecast and a nice easterly breeze, and it seemed like everyone went very smoothly, down through the Lei Yue Mun gap, on down to Cape D'Aguilar and around the corner. Cyberport was a slowdown, but not a stopper. First finisher (Athena) came home at 13.10, and after that it was a steady stream of boats until about 16.30h. All in all, it was a pretty good Around the Island Race – not a record-breaking year, but almost everyone got around without difficulty.“

www.rhkyc.org.hk photos: www.guynowell.com

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