Cautious starts were certainly the call today for the start of the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club's San Fernando Race.
Competing with 32 boats on the start line, all vying for the best positions, it provided a spectacular sight and spectators and race officials alike agreed that they couldn't have wished for anything better. Starting off Cape Collinson, the weather was superb. 12 knots of northerly breeze and a reasonably calm sea and blue skies, it was much better than expected. The midday gun signalled the start and they were off, heading directly out to do do battle with the South China Sea. Ffree Fire skippered by Sam Chan took an early lead but was soon overtaken by Benoit Lesaffre on his catamaran Atmosphere. Close behind was the impressive 80' Swan Maligaya, the Philippine entry skippered by Andy Soriano.
If wind conditions live up to expectations, Atmosphere, and indeed a couple of other contenders including Maligaya and Ffree Fire may well be on the way to break the two days, two hours and two minute record set in 1991 by Lawrie Smith on Rothmans. In any event, these three boats are likely to be battling it out for line honours over the 480nm course to the northern Philippine coast. First radio reports are expected in around 1900 hours tonight and this will show how well the fleet have settled into the race and what sort of conditions they are experiencing.