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Teams prepare to start the Hong Kong to Hainan Race 2016 - photo © RHKYC / Guy Nowell
Teams prepare to start the Hong Kong to Hainan Race 2016 - photo © RHKYC / Guy Nowell

Hong Kong to Hainan Race 2018

Let’s face it: Sailing off the breeze is a heck of a lot more fun than pounding into big seas, especially on a distance race.

Enter the biennial Hong Kong to Hainan Race, an Offshore Category One race that’s a recognized qualifying event for the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, and whose brochure describes it as a “classic, 390-mile downwind passage”. This event, which starts on October 18, 2018, takes crews to the city of Sanya, on the island of Hainan in Southern China, and-if all goes according to plan-features plenty of spinnaker work and reasonably level decks.

Seng Huang Lee’s 100-foot super maxi Scallywag set the current course record of 23 hours 31 minutes and 52 seconds in 2016, giving all 2018 entrants new targets boatspeeds to sail if they want to claim this crown.

And while the big Scallywag isn’t racing this year (at least as of this writing), there are two fast multi-hulls in the eight-strong fleet that could prove a threat to her spot in the history books, namely Karl Kwok’s VPLP-designed MOD 70 MOD Beau Geste and Seng Huang Lee and Meitatsu Fukumoto’s SHK Scallywag Fuku.

Additionally, there are some quick smaller monohulls, including Sam Chan’s TP52 FreeFire, Joachim Isler’s Mills 41 Ambush, and Fred Kinmonth and Nick Burns’ Sydney 43 GTS Mandrake III, that could be poised to clean-up amongst the monos at the event’s prize-giving ceremonies, of which there are two, one at the Serenity Marina in Sanya, Hainan, on Saturday, October 20, the other at the RHKYC’s Chartroom on Wednesday, October 31.

I checked in with Ailsa Angus, the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club’s sailing manager, via email, about the 2018 Hong Kong to Hainan Race.

Can you give us your 30-second elevator pitch for the Hong Kong to Hainan Race?

The Hong Kong to Hainan Race is an exhilarating kite-up-downhill-surf over large rolling waves and ending in the “Hawaii of China”.

You’ll get top speeds out of your boat, and it’s a qualifier for the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race.

What are the race’s biggest tactical challenges? What about its greatest rewards?

The biggest tactical challenge is to avoid the swathes of fishing nets off the coast. For the two trimarans, there will be no chance to get into a watch system as they expect to make the crossing in about 12 hours.

With boats going at top speeds, hopefully, the entire time, crews will be giving all of their attention to the race at hand. The greatest reward is the journey itself but, of course, completing it and having that cold beer on the dock afterwards [is also great].

How many boats, total, do you expect on the starting line?

Eight.

Teams prepare to start the Hong Kong to Hainan Race 2016 © RHKYC / Guy Nowell

Teams prepare to start the Hong Kong to Hainan Race 2016 © RHKYC / Guy Nowell

Have you ever had a boat as big or fast as MOD Beau Geste on the starting line? Also, if they break Scallywag’s record, will they get classified as the fastest multihull (e.g., an asterisk next to their name), or will they be the new outright record holder?

Not only do we have MOD Beau Geste, but we also have a second trimaran, which is going to make things incredibly exciting. Seng Huang Lee and Meitatsu Fukumoto have entered their latest machine, SHK Scallywag Fuku.

Undoubtedly, one of the trimarans will nab line honors, but the monohull record, currently held by Scallywag will still stand.

If Scallywag is able to take the record, we believe they could be the first owners in history to hold a category 1 offshore record in both in monohull and multihull at the same time.

What is the ideal forecast for this race? Also, what about the worst-case forecast? Also, what makes these forecasts positive/negative for the sailors?

The absolute ideal forecast for this race is to have a 25 to 30 knots northeasterly breeze. No wind or a typhoon would be a negative.

We certainly heard a lot about the fishing fleets off of Hong Kong during the arrival of the Volvo Ocean Race fleet last winter…will the Hong Kong to Hainan fleet have to deal with these same fishing boats? If so, what will be done to keep both the racers and the fishermen safe? Or, is this an impossible situation to manage? Can you please explain?

All of our entries have experienced offshore crew and in particular experience in sailing across the China Sea.

Even so, race organizers have brought the start forward by two hours to ensure that boats get offshore in daylight hours.

Can you tell us about any steps that you and there regatta organizers have recently taken to reduce the race’s environmental footprint? (Perhaps a ban on single-use plastic cups/straws or a partnership with Sailors for the Sea, etc?)

In 2016, to coincide with World Oceans Day, Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club stopped providing single-use plastic bottles, bags and straws. The Club is committed to reducing its impact on the environment.

The [Royal Hong Kong Yacht] Club partners with Sailors for the Sea and both Hong Kong Race Week and the 29er World Championships, [and has] attained Gold Status Clean Regatta.

by David Schmidt

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