Thursday, May 1, 2014

J/145 Cruises Rolex China Sea Race

J/145 sailing China Sea Race (Hong Kong, China)-  The “China Sea Race”, Asia’s principal offshore event, started long, long ago.  On 7th April 1962, three yachts from RHKYC, one from Manila and one from Japan crossed the line at the start of the first China Sea Race. The yachts were escorted over the first 100 miles of their 600 mile journey by two minesweepers of the Hong Kong Royal Naval Reserve.

The finish was off Corregidor Island, crossing a line formed by vessels of the Philippines Navy, to be met by members of the Manila Yacht Club who had co-operated most generously with the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club in all the arrangements.

The China Sea Race was subsequently held as a biennial event. In 1964 it attracted 12 entries and with each successive race, the event grew bigger.  In 1972 it was officially recognized by the Royal Ocean Racing Club in London, England and since then it has become an undisputed Asian blue-water classic.

The 565-nm course from Hong Kong to Subic Bay, The Philippines is fraught with potholes of the weather kind so dramatic and insanely chaotic that is has caused many a navigator sleepless nights for days on end.  Case in point, this year the top few boats finished in great breeze while the chasing fleet sat becalmed!

During the final miles set against the mountainous, scenic and sunbaked approach to Subic Bay, little could separate the leading three boats (all of the TP52 variant). Said long-time J/24 and J/80 owner, Neil Pryde, “We were surging down the coast in good wind with an A3 spinnaker up reaching at 12 to 13 knots. It was incredibly exciting, boats kept changing positions because we had all been reading the same weather.”

Pryde, a Hong Kong resident and owner of Neil Pryde Sails, first competed in the race in 1968 and won the race for the first time!  The victory represents one of the most significant accomplishments of his illustrious sailing career. “It ranks as one of the more memorable victories we’ve had and we’ve won a lot of races,” said Pryde. “It means a lot to me, over the past few years I’ve not done a lot of sailing because I’ve had some health issues so to go out and still prove we can do it is a big thing for me personally. Yacht racing has been part of my life for sixty odd years. I’ve never cruised, I’ve always raced. It’s what I do.”

Cruising fast in behind the TP52’s was the J/145c REDEYE sailed by Paul Leese.  Leese and crew sailed to a 5th in class amongst a fleet of bespoke, custom IRC racers from 40 to 50 feet— not bad for a “cruiser” sailing with a shallow draft wedge-bulb keel!   For more Rolex China Sea Race sailing information