Strewth leads the charge
By 9:30am local time (Hong Kong) all of the Rolex China Sea Race fleet was into the South China Sea sailing in predominately light southeast breezes close to the rhumbline to Subic Bay. The frontrunners, Geoff Hill’s TP52 Strewth – which lost its keel in nearly the same location in the 2008 edition – was making 8 knots and enjoying leading the fleet with approximately 450 miles to go. Further west, Sir Robin Knox-Johnston’s Ffreefire 70 was just leading the Kinmouth/Burns Mills 51 EFG Mandrake on corrected time in IRC Racing A.
In IRC Racing B, YK Szeto’s Beneteau First 44.7 Cloud was leading. In the 2008 race, Cloud dropped out to come to the assistance of Strewth, following them back to Hong Kong to ensure they reached there safely.
In IRC Racing C, Chin Wah Ho’s Beneteau First 34.7 Calamansi was leading on corrected time. Scratch boat in the division, Anthony Root’s Archambault 35 Red Kite II, was 20 miles ahead, though not saving their time on handicap. But Root will be trying hard – he has campaigned Red Kite keenly since it’s launch, competing in 70 races and placing in the top three in many of them. The boat won last year’s Hong Kong – San Fernando race overall (as well as the award for first-time skipper). Of this year’s Rolex China Sea Race, Root said, “We have pretty much the same crew, so we’re all very excited and optimistic, but I think it’s going to be a crap shoot. The issue is, there are going to be corridors of wind. It’s just simply too complex for anyone to know exactly where those corridors will be. So to some degree, it’s going to be a function of if you happen to be in the right place…It’s an educated guess, you can improve the odds, but you can’t guarantee it.”
With tracking issues making corrected positions uncertain, Jing Lee/Peter Forsythe’s X-55 Xena led Peter Churchouse’s Warwick 64 Moonblue 2 in IRC Premier Cruising on the water. While in IRC Cruising, Simon Boyde’s First 42 Cave Canum was leading their division.
The fleet can expect a change in conditions, as the forecast calls for east to southeast winds, force 4 -5 (13-19 kts), becoming east up to force 6-7 (24-30 kts).