for the Asian blue water classic...
In 2016 Philip Turner's Reichel/Pugh 66 Alive skippered by Duncan Hine, claimed line honours, set a new race record and claimed the IRC 0 Class title, in the process. But reduced to 2nd place in the Overall IRC stakes by Black Baza, ruined their chance of taking the triple. They return from Australia to make amends, but face some stiff competition from two TP52's Sam Chan's FreeFire and Ernesto Echauz's Standard Insurance Centennial III with the all Philippine crew from the national squad. Shawn Kang's Ker 46 Lighthorse AlphaPlus is suited to the fast reaching conditions and Geoff Hill's Antipodes tops the size scale and never been known to give an inch away.
An interesting scenario developing in the IRC 1 Class. YY Yan and YF Liu have taken over the reigns on the Ker 42 Custom Seawolf (Formerly Black Baza) and have a big reputation to live up to. They have won the IRC Racer 2 class before on the earlier A40RC Seawolf and have been training hard to get familiar with the new ride. On past performances Fred Kinmonth / Nick Burns Sydney GTS 43 Mandrake III are always in the mix on the podium, while Jonathan Mahony's HYD 42 Zanzibar won the overall IRC title in 2012 and returns each year with expectations to repeat the dose. Joachim Isler / Andrew Taylor Mills 41 Ambush are always a threat, while Victor Kuk / David Ho's Mills 40 Phoenix and Lo Wing Hong's HH42 Rampage II are both capable of delivering the title.
Celebrating his 25th birthday on the eve of the race, Gordon Liu may be one of the youngest skippers in race history, with seven crew on the Sydney 38 Kingsman in the IRC 2 Class. Despite this youthful enthusiasm, they will have to fend off two bigger A40RC's with the experienced Simon Powell's Sell Side Dream and Chin Yew Seah's Avant Garde that have placed here before. Philippe Grelon's unnamed Pogo 10.50 might seem to be outclassed amongst Andy Lam's X41 Orient Express and Glenn Smith's Grand Soleil 45 Blackjack, but anything can happen and usually does over the coarse of the race.
All six yachts gracing the Premier Cruising Class are over 50ft and top out with Peter Cremers race winning Warwick 75 Shahtoosh. Having competed since the 2002 race, Peter Churchouse's Warwick 64 Moonblue 2, knows the way and is very familiar with the idiosyncrasies the China Sea can throw at them. Although smaller than the big hitters Carl Wilkinson's Bavaria 56 Lisa Elaine, Yong Kong Fan's First 50 Tipsy Easy, Anthony Day's XC50 Explorer, Emmanuel Pitsilis Sense 50 Sea Monkey, are very capable and geared up to spring some surprises.
While four yachts in the Cruiser Class have a race within a race, all eyes will be on the two Multihull's. Karl Kwok's newly acquired MOD 70 Beau Geste, has broken records all over the world as Phaedo and they expect to set a new Multihull record this time. It's worth noting that Kwok's Whitbred 60, with the same name Beau Geste set the Monohull Race Record in 2000 and held it for 16 years at 47h 43m 07s and was only broken by 11m and 59s by Alive last time out in 2016. Going by the form book, Raphael Blot's Banuls 60 catamaran Mach 2 will have their hands full, matching Beau Geste's pace, but lets see how it pans out.
All yachts will score points in the AsianYachting Grand Prix (AYGP) Skipper and Yacht Rankings and as this race is the 10th point scoring event for the 2017-18 Season, we are rapidly closing in on the final events, to present the Skipper and Yacht of the Year titles.
All yachts are invited to compete on the Commodores Cup (April 3rd - 7th) in Subic Bay, straight after the China Sea Race and accumulate further points in the AYGP Rankings before racing swings over to the final events, Top of the Gulf (27th April - 1st May) and Samui Regatta (26th May - June 2nd).
Image Credit: RHKYC / Rolex / Daniel Forster / Guy Nowell / Naomi Rebecca
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