In Hong Kong, the final event in this season's Omega Asian Yachting Circuit got off to a flying start at 1200hrs today, with 25 boats enjoying a steady 15 knot Northerly breeze that caused both Stella Minter Ellison and Moonblue II to shred their kites.
Race Officer David SALTER chose to set a long start line, perpendicular to the Rhumb line with no windward mark to allow all boats clean air and a downhill start. While most boats elected to start at the outer end of the line, Brian PETERSEN'S Elliot 45 "Maverick II" stayed inside to benefit from a fast, clean start with seven other entrants joining her to take the Westerly route round Ninepins.
Top Omega Asian Yachting Circuit contenders Ray ORDOVEZA's "Clariden Karakoa", Fred KINMONTH's "Stella Minter Ellison" and Neil PRYDE's "Hi Fidelity" chose the Easterly route, along with Frank PONG's "Jelik", which quickly pulled into a commanding position at the head of the fleet ahead of Sam CHAN's "Free Fire".
At 1800hrs this evening (local time) the China Sea race fleet had made good progress, with leading boat 'Jelik' covering 76 miles, eight miles ahead of 'Ffree Fire'. She in turn was only six miles ahead of 'Hi Fidelity' and Kiwi entrant 'Maverick II', both these boats turning in competitve performances over the first six hours of the race.
The bulk of the fleet was bunched together around 15 miles further back, with steady 15 knot winds and good visibility forecast for the next 12 hours.
Of great disappointment was the news received around 2000hrs that Clariden Karakoa, favourite for this season's Omega Asian Yachting Circuit title, has retired due to steering problems and is expected back at RHKYC's Kellett Island base in the small hours of Friday morning.