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Rolex China Sea Race replaced, Francis Joyon restarted, WMRT revived

by Guy Nowell, Sail-World Asia 24 Feb 2020 06:29 UTC
IDEC Sport expected in London on Wednesday © Bertrand Deslesne / IDEC Sport

Francis Joyon departed Hong Kong 18 Jan on the huge IDEC Sport trimaran, exactly two years to the day since Giovanni Soldini set out on Maserati to beat the Tea Route record – Hong Kong to London. Joyon passed under the Queen Elizabeth bridge on 19 February, recording a run of 31d 23h 36m 46s, and beating Soldini’s time by four days and some hours. It sounds easy, but it definitely wasn’t. Just before the Cape of Good Hope, on 29 January, Joyon had a lead on Soldini’s time of 800nm. On 11 Feb IDEC Sport was 84nm behind the record pace after some exceedingly baffling weather in the South Atlantic. In effect, it was a restart for Joyon and crew, something like ¾ of the way through the voyage - and then they went on to beat Soldini by 1,100nm on the water. Quite a come-back! Congratulations, gentlemen.

The Rolex China Sea Race 2019 has been moved to 2020 on account the Covid-19 coronavirus outbreak in China. Quite simply, the Philippines authorities don’t want a visit from a fleet load of Hong Kong sailors! So to keep everyone occupied the RHKYC has announced a 400nm offshore that goes from HK to Pedro Blanco, to Pratas Reef, and back again. In view of the popularity of the Caribbean 600, we suggest extending that a little and creating a Hong Kong 600… out to Pedro Blanco and back, out to Pratas and back, round the back of the Lemas and across to Macau and then home. Add in a couple of little twiddles (there are plenty of islands after all) and there’s your 600.

We are very happy that the World Match Racing Tour has reverted to being a series of different events, all sailed in different boats, rather than a One Design gig. WMRT is one of the truly great international events. Match racing is brutal and unforgiving, and makes for great spectator sport. It’s not all about speed, which makes a change these days. Ian Williams has just won the Argo Group Gold Cup at the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club for the second time, and the last time was 13 years ago. “When I was getting into match racing, this was the first big event I came to in 1998. This was the one you really wanted to win” To win in 2006 was huge for us, it was our first big win. I’ve been coming back since and always fell at the final hurdle. We traditionally struggle here. To win for the first time in 13 years is incredible.” Congratulations, Mr Williams.

Hong Kong is in various sorts of lockdown, with sports venues managed by the Leisure and Cultural Services Dept (LCSD) all closed. This doesn’t to make a lot of sense when the public service announcements are telling us to get out in the fresh air and take some exercise, and avoid crowded places. There are no crowds on a tennis court, but they are closed nonetheless. There aren’t too many crowds in a sailing dinghy either, but the government watersports centres are all closed, too.

However, it was business as usual at the Aberdeen Boat Club, Hebe Haven Yacht Club and the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club, all of whom had racing going on last weekend. Sail-World Asia has to own up to a couple of seriously sub-par windward/leewards on Saturday, and retiring from the 18-miler on Sunday when the forecast 25kts forecast never materialised – but the sun was shining, and nobody was wearing a damn facemask. Small victory for common sense and normality.

For the rest of the news, keep reading below.

Standing by on 72.

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