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11 April 2004, 10:12 am
Ffree Fire Takes Handicap Honours
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China Sea Race
Hong Kong

With the rest of her division parked up within 20 miles of the finish line, Sam CHAN'S eyecatching ULDB Sled 'Ffree Fire' is assured of the China Sea Race 2004 IRC Racing title to go with her November Hainan win.
Provisional results for corrected time show Race Committee Chairman Neil Pryde's 'Hi Fidelity' in second, Frank Pong's 'Jelik' just behind that and Kiwi Brian Petersen's 'Maverick II' in fourth place.

This being the case, 'Hi Fidelity' will be celebrating winning the Omega Asian Yachting Circuit title, as 'Stella Minter Ellison' needed to finish in third place or better to equal Pryde's final Circuit tally of 9 points. As Kinmonth cannot now finish better than fifth overall, 'Hi Fidelity' is home and dry, even without the benefit of the permitted discard.

Ever the competitor, although delighted to win the Omega Asian Yachting Circuit title, Pryde admitted that it was a small consolation for losing the China Sea Race IRC Racing title to 'Free Fire'. "Hi Fidelity had an excellent race, although the strong winds allowed the bigger boats like 'Ffree Fire' to make too much time on us. We would have been much closer to them (on corrected time) if we hadn't parked up outside Subic for an hour or an hour and a half, just before midnight."

"Ffree Fire finished late afternoon and would have enjoyed a much better finish due to the land thermals at that time - Jelik had a huge problem as she finished in the morning and maybe with hindsight it might have been better to finish the race outside Subic."

"We had no problems at all with the boat, which is down to the amount of work and effort that went into preparing her. Yachting is like motor racing in that, to win, the machinery has to be in great condition - you can't win if you don't finish."

Asked how he felt about the early exit of Omega Asian Yachting Circuit front runner 'Clariden Karakoa' from the race. Pryde said "obviously it's bad luck for Ray and it certainly helped 'Hi Fidelity' (win the title) but as I said before the race, that's the thing about Ocean Racing - preparation is the key, but anything can happen."

The backmarkers of the fleet, consisting mostly of HKPN competitors, are progressing well with 'Tui Tai' reporting that she was still enjoying 16-18 knot conditions with around 75 miles left to cover while Glenn Smith's Catalina 42 'Bewitched' reported losing her rudder overnight but successfully overcoming the problem to continue the race. Most of the fleet are expected to finish before tomorrow's 0800 radio sched, however there can be no certainty, as the winds at the finish line have proved impossible to predict.
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