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14 April 2006, 10:04 am
Race Underway
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China Sea Race 2006
Hong Kong

With a ten to 13 knot westerly gracing Hong Kong's Victoria Harbour yesterday, Race Officer Ronnie MCCRACKEN elected to set running start for Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club's 23rd China Sea Race. Start times were delayed by five minutes to avoid any confusion arising from the sound of Hong Kong's famous 'Noonday Gun', with the 15 IRC racers starting at 1205 local time in what can only be described as 'grey' conditions.
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Boracay, helmed by Peter MORTON (GBR), was first across the line only to lose all advantage with a mighty spinnaker wrap in full view of spectators. Frank PONG (HKG), this time racing on Jelik, opted to start with kite up, staying well back from the line to avoid getting carried OCS by the outgoing tide and it was not long before the two Reichel/Pugh 75 footers drew ahead of the chasing fleet. Steve MANNING's (CHN) First 44.7, Walawala, and Simon BOYDE's (HKG) First 42, Cave Canem, were quickly off the mark in Division B.

With the breeze softening just a little, Premier Cruising also had a clean start ten minutes later, with Geoff HILL's (AUS) Lyons 49, Strewth, first over the line and up with the kite. The final start was a combined start of HKPN and Multihulls, with Simon LATHAM's (HKG) Tojai first over. Sadly, due to adverse weather conditions during the delivery trip from Vladivostock, Russian entry Carrera missed the start, but is still hoping to make it to the Philippines in time for the President's Cup.

15 Knot Northerly

Sailors familiar with the vagaries of harbour sailing will have been expecting the drop in breeze at Li Yue Mun gap, however once through to Junk Bay, the boats were rewarded with a 15 knot northerly to help them on their way.

By the 1800 local time radio schedule, Jelik and Boracay were, as expected, at the head of the fleet, followed closely by Mandrake while in IRC B, Imagine had made 10 nm on the rest of her division. The Premier Cruising division looked more like a cruise in company than an offshore race, with all six boats sitting within 5 nm. The first casualty of the race, Jaywalker, discovered that her rudder bearing was leaking and turned back for Hong Kong at 2100, safely reaching home this morning.

Wind Falls Away

Overnight, the fleet averaged seven to eight knots boat speed, however by the 0800 report wind speeds had dropped dramatically and the tail end of the fleet has been making ground on the leaders ever since. According to the Purplefinder tracking onboard the boats, Jelik appears to have found the breeze again, after parking at Pratas reef for a few hours, and is once again pulling away from Mandrake.

Safe to say, Karl KWOK's (HKG) record time of 47 hours, 43 minutes and 07 seconds for the race, set with Beau Geste in 2000 does not appear to be in any danger this year.

Lindsay LYONS (As Amended By ISAF). Image, Jelik is going well so far:© Guy NOWELL/www.guynowell.com
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