For the second time in four years, Neil Pryde's Welbourne 52 Hi Fi from Hong Kong has won the Rolex China Sea Race, Asia's principal offshore event.
On Saturday morning, Hi Fi became the third boat to complete the 565-nm course from Hong Kong to Subic Bay, The Philippines following a dramatic tussle with a group of yachts, most notably Bryon Ehrhart's TP52 Lucky from the United States. Pryde's crew finished the race in 2 days, 21 hours, 47 minutes, enough on corrected time, with the chasing fleet becalmed, to seal overall victory.
"It was incredibly close racing,"
enthused Pryde. "To be this close after so many miles is amazing. It was the same all the way down. We were never out of site of the other boats so you could not relax one moment."
During the final miles set against the mountainous, scenic and sunbaked approach to Subic Bay, little could separate the boats. "There were three 52-footers, ourselves, Lucky and Freefire (HKG) all neck and neck,"
explained Pryde. "We were surging down the coast in good wind with an A3 spinnaker up reaching at 12 to 13 knots. It was incredibly exciting, boats kept changing positions because we had all been reading the same weather."
With the finishing line in sight, the three crews were all seeking to make the winning tactical decision. "Lucky went around the rocks while we took the inside track. The trade off was whether there was more wind on the inside or outside,"
admitted Pryde. While Lucky stole the advantage and beat Hi Fi on the water, the two minute margin was insufficient to defeat Pryde's crew on handicap.
Pryde, a Hong Kong resident, first competed in the race in 1968 and this victory represents one of the most significant accomplishments of his illustrious sailing career. "It ranks as one of the more memorable victories we've had and we've won a lot of races,"
said Pryde. "It means a lot to me, over the past few years I've not done a lot of sailing because I've had some health issues so to go out and still prove we can do it is a big thing for me personally. Yacht racing has been part of my life for sixty odd years. I've never cruised, I've always raced. It's what I do."
Another passionate veteran of the sport, Australian Syd Fischer took line honours with his Maxi Ragamuffin 90 on Friday evening finishing in a time of 57 hours, 31 minutes and 18 seconds.
By 18:00 local time on Sunday evening, 26 of the 34 competing yachts had completed the race and there had been only one retirement.
For more detailed information about the 2014 Rolex China Sea Race including race documents and the current entry list please visit the Royal Hong Yacht Club website