The Clipper fleet left the dock at 09:30 to perform a parade of sail up the harbour, led by Justin Taylor aboard Hong Kong Clipper. Unfortunately, as is often the case in Hong Kong at this time of year, the visibility was poor and the dramatic skyline was lost in the mist.
New skipper Ross Daniel had an eventful morning when all his wind instruments failed, but due to some great last minute work by the boat yard, the problem was quickly resolved and New York Clipper sailed on time to join the others for the start.
Race start spectators were given a great treat; a ride aboard Wingsing, one of only three remaining sailing junks in Hong Kong kindly offered by Hillary King and Tristan Stewart. The junk displayed a magnificent banner saying 'Good Luck Hong Kong Clipper,' provided by the Clipper Sailmaker, Tim Keogh of China Sails.
The race start took place in the eastern entrance to Hong Kong Harbour, just outside the busy shipping channel. The Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club boats, unable to sail on the San Fernando Race due to SARS quarantine restrictions, started 20 minutes before the Clipper fleet on a short coastal race to Macao. Conditions were light for the start of RHKYC fleet, but there was just enough breeze to carry them away into the mist.
Then the Clipper fleet started in fine form and New York Clipper got the best start followed by Bristol, Cape Town, Liverpool and Hong Kong. London Clipper was next with Jersey and Glasgow chasing. Initially the yachts had spread out trying to find the wind, but after 20 minutes they then started drifting together.
In fact Bristol and Jersey both lost steerage way and literally did drift together, with the rival crews manning the fenders. Bristol Clipper, skippered by Richard Butler, seemed in a sociable mood and also then drifted into Glasgow. Amazingly after 45 minutes all the boats were in a perfectly close formation.
There were many different thoughts on how to get the boats moving. London hoisted her spinnaker, while others put up wind seekers. Then Adam Kyffin's crew aboard Liverpool Clipper, with her No 1 Yankee hoisted, got an edge on the others. She pulled out a lead of some 50 metres and started accelerating.
The wind filled in from the front and by the time it reached the others, Liverpool Clipper had disappeared into the mist with a mile lead. Those few yards made all the difference and maybe this race has got Liverpool's name on it.
The fleet will be racing down the east side of the South China Sea and their first waypoint will be to the NE of the Macclesfield bank. The forecast is for force 4 easterly winds and so they should enjoy good reaching conditions. The Hong Kong Observatory gave a detailed weather briefing to all of the racing crews, including predictions for Typhoon Kujira (the Whale). This is presently in the Pacific and is expected to veer to the north over the next few days and pass to the north of the Philippines. The Clippers should not be affected by it other than to have a good northerly breeze to speed them on their way south. Like all tropical storms, Kujira is being very closely tracked and any developments will be closely watched.
As the Clipper fleet bid farewell to Hong Kong our thanks go to Commodore Alan Lau and everyone at the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club, who have made this a truly memorable and successful stopover.
Next stop, Singapore!