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28 October 2005, 10:35 am
Ffree Fire Leads
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Hong Kong To Hainan Race 2005

Moderate to fresh conditions have marked the 365 nautical mile yacht race from Hong Kong to Hainan Race with record holder, Sam CHAN's Hong Kong maxi yacht Ffree Fire continuing to hold the lead with an outside chance of breaking her own record.
With the twelve to 20 knot conditions holding steady overnight, the Hainan fleet had made good progress by this morning's 0800 hours position report. Ffree Fire has dropped south of the rhumb line, while Hi Fi Team Pryde has stayed well above it - Mandrake has taken the middle course, and all three boats are currently on course to arrive in Hainan, China in the early hours of this evening.

There is still a chance that the wind will pick up enough during the day for any one of these boats to break Ffree Fire's existing record, however it will be a close run thing. Drumstick and Strewth are head to head 40 nm further back, followed closely by Walawala. Barnstormers, Polar Star III, Shahtoosh and Quest have formed a rear guard of four.

The handicap results based on current ETA would have Ffree Fire placing ahead of Mandrake then Hi Fi in IRC Division A, whilst in the Premier Cruising Division; Strewth would take the division ahead of Walawala and Barnstormer.

Sadly, the Hocux Pocux 2 campaign came to an end shortly after midnight when they 'ran out of spinnakers' - one ripped, one holed and one caught up in a wrap so bad, that the genoa could not be hoisted. Although disappointed, skipper Marcel LIEDTS admitted that, 'it made no sense to continue on the main alone'. All on board are fit and well, and the boat is making her way back to Macau for additional fuel, before returning to Hong Kong.

Ffree Fire is still defending her record against all-comers, and Neil PRYDE's newly refurbished Farr 52, Hi Fi Team Pryde is still trying to take it away. Mandrake (Mills 50) and Drumstick (DK 46) are still in close contention the IRC Racing fleet, along with Patrick SLESINGER's Quest (X-362).

In the Premier Cruising division Marcel LEIDTS' Hocux Pocux 2 (X-612), was looking to add a Hainan victory to her China Coast Regatta before she ran out of ammunition.

Geoff HILL's Strewth (Lyons 49) continues to race well under handicap. HILL has enjoyed a good deal of success racing Strewth in Australia under PHF in recent years, clocking up wins in the Sydney to Mooloolaba Race and the Sydney to Southport Race.

This year the boat raced at Cowes Week, took tenth in her division in the Rolex Fastnet Race, and scored fifth in the last Rolex Sydney Hobart Race.

After the Hainan Race the boat will continue south to the Raja Muda Regatta and the Phuket King's Cup, and HILL hopes to complete the Asian Yachting Circuit with the Singapore Straits Regatta and the China Sea Race next year.

With the wind forecast to strengthen, for once, the slower boats may enjoy the best of the racing conditions to come out on top.

There is certainly plenty of competition from Peter CHURCHOUSE's Moonblue 2, Peter CREMERS' Shahtoosh, and the three Beneteau, Polar Star III (First 47.7), Walawala (First 44.7) and Barnstormer (First 40.7).

The Hainan Race is now run biannually, with the Hong Kong-Vietnam Race (to Nha Trang) in the alternate years.

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