Press Release and Final Results

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By Kelly Gilkison

12th May 2000

It is quite apt that in the first major international race of the century and in RORC’s 75th anniversary year, the race record for the 575 nautical mile China Sea Race, jointly organised by Royal Hong Kong, Manila and Subic Bay Yacht Clubs was smashed by an incredible 28 hours – is this the way forward for yachting in the new millenium?

The 20th China Sea, was rated by many as one of the best yet.  Strong winds for the first two days meant the 32 competitors from around Asia had some exhilarating sailing in what has become the fastest China Sea Race in history.  

  The first six boats crossing the finish line all broke the previous China Sea Race record set in 1996 by Hong Kong’s Karl Kwok.   Kwok has had great success with his Beau Geste Racing Team including a 1997 Sydney to Hobart win and it was fitting that it was his own record of 75:53:56 that he broke. Kwok’s current Beau Geste is the ex-Chessie Racing Whitbred 60 and on board, members of Paul Cayard’s unsuccessful America One team, this time had success taking line honours and overall IRC division in a new record time of 47:43:07. 

  Conditions on race start day were overcast but watched by a large spectator fleet, Manila Yacht Club Commodore, Mike Zosa fired the gun to get the fleet away to a clear start.  Race Officer Brian Littlechild commented on the excellent start in the flat waters off Hong Kong’s Steep Island and felt that the competitors would have been pleased with the consistent 12 knot northerly breeze that set them off on their way to the Philippines.

  Neil Pryde’s Hi Fidelity (Sydney 46) was first across the line and certainly had the best start at the Committee boat end, however the strong tide meant that boats who started inshore, at the pin end, soon overtook his advantage.   Beau Geste was first to round the windward mark, 12 minutes after the start.

Frenchman Benoit Lesaffre in his 50’ catamaran Atmosphere was soon making inroads into Kwok’s lead once spinnakers were hoisted.   Frank Pong in his Wylie designed 77’ sloop Jelik was also chasing hard and the three front runners remained in close contact for the majority of the race.   

  Kiwi sailor Gavin Brady, helming Beau Geste, felt the team sailed a tactical race averaging 11 knots but said the last day was extremely tough keeping the boat going when the predicted easterlies stayed in the north and dropped to almost zero knots.   There were moments of concern when their Code Zero sail shredded at 0400 hours Sunday morning and Jelik sailed past them, but Brady chose to stay high and soon rolled over the top of Pong.

  Lesaffre enjoyed his own match racing duel with Brady, the No 2 world ranked match racing champion.  With Atmosphere finishing just 17 minutes behind the Beau Geste Team, the disappointed Frenchman felt he could have taken line honours had he not shredded his principal spinnaker shortly after the start and was quoted that if he had not been flying what was no more than a handkerchief he certainly would have been fighting Kwok for the prestigious line honours.

  Pryde’s Hi Fidelity had an exciting and close duel with his Philippine rival, Ernesto Echauz’s Subic Centennial (Bashford 46).   These two boats are well known for their battles in Asian regattas and certainly this race was no exception as they sailed neck and neck all the way down to Subic Bay in the Philippines.

  Strong nor-westerers were encountered by the fleet resulting in spinnakers and sails being torn to shreds in the first couple of hours in winds that reached 30 knots.   Worst damage was to befall Sam Chan’s ULDB sled Ffree Fire when the bottom third of her rudder broke and forced them to retire two hours into the race ending what could have been an exciting race between them, Beau Geste and Jelik, Hong Kong’s three main rivals.   The winds which enabled the record to be broken continued over the next two days, before subsiding and resulting in the typical patchy light conditions generally seen off the Philippine coast.  Those a little offshore seemed to get the better of it, allowing them to spinnaker reach in toward Caponies, but for most it was the last 20 miles which decided their eventual fate.   Reports ranged from excellent spinnaker runs across the Bay in the daytime sea-breeze to slow beats at night.  All-in-all though there didn’t seem to be too many dissatisfied customers on arrival at Subic Bay Yacht Club.

  In the HKPN division, fast times were also being recorded.   Division A winner John Blay in his ninth China Sea Race in Windseeker (S&S 36) sailed a fantastic race resulting in the division win and second overall in the HKPN Division.   Sailing one of the smallest boats in the fleet, Blay and his 5 crew took 103 hours and 16 minutes to complete the 575 nautical mile race.


Line Honours                                     Beau Geste                               Karl Kwok

                                                            in a new record time of 47:43:07

  IRC Division Overall                           1st     Beau Geste                      Karl Kwok

                                                            2nd     Jelik                                 Frank Pong

                                                            3rd     Hi Fidelity                         Neil Pryde

  IRC Division A                                    1st     Beau Geste                      Karl Kwok

                                                            2nd     Jelik                                 Frank Pong

                                                            3rd     Hi Fidelity                         Neil Pryde

  IRC Division B                                    1st     Outrageous                     Gerry Daughton              

                                                            2nd     Red Baron                       Roland Schmidt

                                                            3rd     Wizard                             Jim/Cathy Hobbs

  HKPN Division Overall                       1st     Atmosphere                     Benoit Lesaffre

                                                            2nd     Windseeker                     John Blay

                                                            3rd     Shahtoosh                       Peter Cremers 

  HKPN Division A                                1st     Windseeker                     John Blay

                                                            2nd     Sonic                               Susana & Bill Bezy

                                                            3rd     Midnight Sun                   Thomas Nordgren

  HKPN Division B                                1st     Shahtoosh                       Peter Cremers

                                                            2nd     Bewitched                        Glenn Smith

                                                            3rd     Jade Woman                   Mike Dawes

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