The Rolex China Sea Race began today under near-perfect conditions for a start in Victoria Harbour, just off the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club.
Good Easterly breeze at about 12-15 knots gave the 26 participating boats the push they needed to get the 50th Anniversary race underway. RHKYC Sailing Manager Alex Johnston, "The fleet got away very cleanly with no boats over the line early, and for a race start of this size we had plenty of breeze, so from a start point of view, one really couldn't ask for anything better."
At 12:10 the first warning signal rang out as the boats crisscrossed the Harbour beneath towering skyscrapers and in front of the RHKYC searching for breeze. As the 12:20 start signal was given, Genuine Risk's mast rose well above the others and the fleet hugged the Kowloon side heading out of the Harbour. The first boats were out of view from the RHKYC by 12:35, as they continued across Junk Bay and out past the Po Toi islands into the South China Sea.
Current weather forecasts could favour the smaller boats in the fleet but crews seemed doubtful about a quick trip to the finish. Talkinghead owner Tonny Chung said, "I think the first 24 hours will be fast sailing upwind. It looks like the wind will die down but hopefully we will have some downwind sailing on the light air later in the race."
Geoff Hill echoed Chung's predictions for his Maxi Genuine Risk, seeming doubtful on setting any new race records, "Well, we'll be charging along but it's going to be a slow race. I would think that we will likely be seven or eight hours out of the record at the minimum; it all depends on what the weather does."
Anthony Root, owner of 35-footer Red Kite II, one of the smallest boats in the fleet, did not want to confirm that it is looking like a "small boat race" saying, "I don't want to jinx it! What we see regarding weather is a very complex standoff between the Northeast and the Southeast monsoons, which means the race will be very tactical and very challenging. We'll have to keep our fingers crossed."
As of 1815 local time, Geoff Hill's Genuine Risk was leading the fleet, sailing at 11.8 knots, with 506.1 nautical miles to the finish. Second in the fleet, only 17.7nm behind, was Neil Pryde's Hi Fi, sailing at 9.2 knots.
How To Follow Event
Further information on the Rolex China Sea Race and tracking (with a two-hour delay) may be found at http://www.rhkyc.org.hk/rolexchinasearace.aspx