Slower boats head east
Almost 24 hours into the 50th Anniversary Rolex China Sea Race has seen a split in the fleet, with the top three boats branching off to the south while the rest of the fleet has begun to move east. Genuine Risk still leads the pack, sailing at 9.7 knots and with 386.6nm to go as of 1100 (UTC +8). Hi Fi and Freefire are racing neck-and-neck, with less than one nautical mile separating the two boats, while the current IRC leader is Jelik V.
Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club Marine Services Manager, Roger Eastham, gave a rundown on the current weather forecasts: “The overall weather pattern is showing that the surge in the monsoon, which gave us a great Harbour start, is slowly receding and being replaced by a south-easterly, forcing the crews into some interesting tactical decisions. You can see on the tracker that the majority of the fleet are choosing to head east, positioning themselves for the expected replenishment of the monsoon coming from the east, forecast by most models to arrive sometime on Friday morning.”
“However, the leading, faster boats – because they are sailing ahead of that wind pattern – are faced with a different, tactical option,” continued Eastham. “The leading three boats at this time (1100, UTC +8) – Genuine Risk, Hi Fi and Freefire – have chosen to take a more southerly route. As the surge is expected to come from the north and east, and track across the racecourse, by the time it reaches the leading boats, they will already be into a different weather pattern, which will likely be more affected by the Philippine landmass.”
Alan Tillyer on Genuine Risk gave some on-the-water details: “The first night was a bit bumpy to begin with and we had up to about 15 knots of wind. We ran off low and made good progress south. The wind then eased and headed up slightly; we kept going with that wind. The wind now is back up another notch and has lifted again, so we’re still on port tack making about 10 knots. The sky cleared in the middle of last night, we had a nice bit of moonlight and it made for very pleasant sailing. We’re still looking at the forecast, and what we’re seeing right now on the ground is slightly more breeze than they forecast so we’re still slightly hopeful, but this softening of the breeze is making the record look increasingly difficult.” The record Genuine Risk is chasing is 47h 43m 07s – meaning she needs to finish before 1203 Friday (UTC +8) to set a new Rolex China Sea Race record.
Eastham added, “As far as wind strength is concerned, if boats continue to experience more wind than forecast, the faster boats could finish fast enough to take overall on handicap. It all depends on what time the next surge in the monsoon comes and how far it penetrates across the course. There is always the possibility that the low-rating boats might have the benefit at the end of the day because they may be able to come in on the tail end of that surge. So I think it’s everything to play for.”