Rolex China Sea Race: maxi boat dust up
Genuine Risk, the eight year old Dubois 90 (read more about her here) is expected to compete in the Rolex China Sea Race, starting on Wednesday 4 April. McConaghy-built 90 footer arrived by last week and went straight to a yard to be commissioned and is being put into the water today.
Proud new owner Geoff Hill admits that time is his biggest challenge for the Rolex China Sea Race: “We will only have limited time to commission the boat and tune her up. The other challenge will of course be the putting together of an experienced crew and moulding them into a team. I'm fortunate in having a very good nucleus available from my Strewth team here in Hong Kong and I have been able to attract some very well credentialed Australian and American sailors with big boat experience.” says Hill.
Purchased in 2011, Geoff enthuses that Genuine Risk is “an amazing boat” - built to state-of-the-art specifications in 2004 at a total cost in excess of US$8 million. Apart from her 2010/2011 campaign, Geoff is quick to point out “that she has been very lightly raced with only 1,200 engine hours on the clock - less than 50 days.” He picked her up for a song along with two containers full of gear and an entire suite of 2011 sails after she was campaigned last year by Victory Challenge boss Hugo Stenbeck.
The boat is a step up for Hill as his new toy is nearly double the size of his TP52. With a canting keel, a 16ft draft, huge sails and enormous power, Hill and his crew will be dealing with a very different machine.
Sailing with Hill across the China Sea will be one of Australia's most experienced and well-known yachtsmen, Syd Fischer - who will be leading Genuine Risk’s Australian programme later in the year. David Witt, a world-class yachtsman who previously ran Grant Wharington’s Skandia, will be leading a team of big boat sailors including Led Pritchard and two of Genuine Risk’s recent crew, including Bill Jenkins. Old Strewth crew, Alan Tillyer, Olivier Decamps, Adam Mowser (who will run the boat’s Hong Kong programme), Mark Fullerton, John Hall and Clyde Freeman are also expected to be on board.
Hill is no stranger to the Rolex China Sea Race which this year celebrates its 50th Anniversary. He first did the Race in 2004 on John Leigh’s Farr 40 Time. Subsequent Races were on his own boat and whilst he says he has enjoyed every Race so far, he admits “perhaps less so in 2008 when we lost the keel on Strewth.
“I regard the Rolex China Sea Race as one of the true offshore blue water classics, and I have done most in the same category such as the Newport to Bermuda race because, unlike the Sydney to Hobart, you are genuinely offshore for most of the race. I also enjoy the fact that it’s a very tactical race and therefore you really need to get your navigation correct… particularly in the Philippines sector.”
Hill is a great fan of the Rolex China Sea Race and is looking forward to the 2012 edition in particular: “Anniversaries are always important events and the 50th Rolex China Sea race is very important because it demonstrates the popularity of the event and its success in establishing itself as one of the premier world offshore races. I participated in the Rolex Sydney Hobart centenary race where we had over 200 vessels it would be great if we could get at least half this to reflect our 50 years.”
Once the issue of time has been conquered, Geoff looks to his next concerns: “My major competition will be firstly, as they always are, the sea and the weather as they will determine who wins the race. Having said this, the Rolex China Sea Race can often be a small boat race and on handicap there are plenty of contenders, ranging of course from Neil Pryde who has had a lock on first place with HiFi to Anthony Root on Red Kite II who has also been very successful. On handicap, you can never leave out Nick Burns and Fred Kinmonth’s EFG Bank Mandrake. As for first across the line... only Ludde Ingvall’s old Nicorette (which last raced in Hong Kong under the Audi ultra banner in the China Coast Regatta) stands in the way if she comes back to Hong Kong from Singapore.“ says Hill.
On that score, Ingvall is indeed looking to bring his boat up for the Race and has put an entry form in: “I figure that this has to be the premium offshore race in Asia and a 50th Anniversary is a big deal. It would be a real gem of a race with two maxis. That would be a dream situation.”
Hill is quick to agree to a ‘Battle Royal’ scenario: “It would be terrific. I would really like to see some of the other more competitive maxis like Wild Oats XI, Wild Thing, Ranger, Morning Glory and of course Investec Loyal come up for the race too, but we will get the chance to race them later in the year if they don't, as we will be taking the boat to Australia to do the Rolex Sydney to Hobart before bringing it back next year for the Asian circuit.
"Hopefully with Genuine Risk being based in Hong Kong, it will bring other maxis to the region to compete. I am a firm believer that the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club sponsors two of the best races in the world - the Rolex China Sea Race and the VinaCapital Hong Kong to Vietnam Race. These are world-class events, as is the China Coast Regatta, and we need the international competition. Unfortunately one of the issues that we have today with a boat like Genuine Risk is finding a suitable place to keep her in Hong Kong, as there is a lack of big boat facilities; but we think we've got that sorted”