The first XiangJiang Cup International Regatta and Water Carnival was held in Changsha, China, over the Dragon Boat Festival weekend.
The Sports and Tourism Bureaus of the Hunan Provence, the Changsha Municipal People’s Government, and local entrepreneur, Tang Wei Zheng, supported the inaugural ‘Invitational’ sailing event. Tang, a boat owner himself, is keen to promote boating and sailing in China, and sponsored the purchase of a fleet of one-design sailing yachts which included eight FarEast 28R and eight FarEast 18R sailing yachts.
This ‘first’ river regatta was expanded to include a number of dinghy classes with the help of the China Yachting Association, and the event was organised by the Shenzhen Across Four Oceans Sailing Event Management (who are also responsible for the China Cup International Regatta). The racing was staged around Orange Island where a very large statue of Mao Zedong dominates the skyline. Located in the heart of Changsha, this beautiful island park is a popular local tourist destination, and visitors come to celebrate the famous poem ‘Qin Yuan Chun’ – written by Chairman Mao when he lived in Changsha. The poem refers to the river, saying “Xiang River flows northwards while hundreds of ships are racing ahead.” The spectacle of a fleet of sailing yachts seemed to capture the spirit of the poem as well as the imagination of hundreds of spectators who lined the shoreline for the opening ceremony.
Over 150 sailors participated in the regatta, with the bulk being mainland dinghy sailors competing in Lasers, Laser Radials and 470s. Amongst them were a number of top Chinese Olympic hopefuls, including Laser Radial sailor Zhang Dong Shuang, who previously won gold in the 2010 Radial Laser World Cup. Zhang, who is preparing for the pre-Olympic trials in Rio, was on fine form and came in first in her division. National Champion 470 sailors Lan Hao and Wang Chao found river racing more difficult than they had expected, and different from the usual geometric course that they are used to, and as a result didn’t perform as well as anticipated.
The majority of the ‘International’ sailors participating the one-design Fareast 28R division were actually expatriates living in the Asia. Exceptions were the Australian and Russian teams who did fly in especially for the event, and their efforts were rewarded with podium finishes. Both of these teams have extensive experience of sailing on rivers, and this showed both on the water and in the final results. Sailing on a river is never easy – windless conditions on the first day and rain on the second made it even more difficult for the competitors. Racing on Saturday (day 1) consisted of one long and hot windward leg for the keelboats. But it was not the lack of wind that caused discontent, rather it was a protest logged by the Belgian team Glasgow Kiss, who protested the first four finishers for not wearing their life jackets at all times (as per the Sailing Instructions). The protest was upheld and day 2 started with a number of very unhappy sailors, including the USA team skippered by Michael Sherretz, who lodged a protest for redress as the teams waited for the thunderstorms to abate before racing could start. When the teams finally got on the water it was a series of three short windward/leeward courses that confirmed who the eventual winners would be, the last long race being cancelled just before the start due to poor visibility and torrential rain squalls.
In the end it was the Australian team Yachting Queensland skippered by Klade Hauschildt, and crewed by Paul Blundell, Hayden Johnson and Seddon Cripps who easily took first place for the FarEast 28R Division. The Aussie sailors were delighted with the overall results and Paul Blundell, Sailing Manager from the Noosa Yacht and Rowing Club commented that, “We came here to win and that is what we did.
Our sailing school puts 300 young people a week through its training programmes, and we pride ourselves on good sportsmanship. This is something that we try to instill in our young sailors, and the two young crew members of our team Hayden and Seddon are successful graduates of our programme and they are they are now Olympic coaches for the Australian youth teams. Winning this regatta validates our commitment to the sport, and we look forward to seeing sailing grow in China. ”
The Russian team skippered by Michael Vasiliev also dismissed the protest as unnecessary. “Some of my crew are national champions and this is the first time we have ever experienced such a protest during a regatta. To us, performance on the water is the more important thing, and we were happy with our second place.” While most of the crews may have disagreed with the protest they did comment that it helped ‘bring them all together’ and as a result they all got to know each other better than they might have otherwise! The protest did highlight some problems with the Sailing Instructions, and these will need to be addressed for any future regattas. One team that was affected by the protest was French Kiss skippered by Cosmas Grelon who eventually came in fourth, behind the Australian entry Shadowfax skippered by Jim Gooding from Western Australia. The winning teams were awarded trophies and prize money, which at RMB12,000 for first, RMB10,000 for second and RMB6,000 for third place is a bonus not often seen at non-professional sailing events.
Racing in the dinghy fleets ran more smoothly, but again racing was limited to one short windward/leeward on day 1 and two short windward/leeward courses, followed by one long upwind course on day 2. Race management in these conditions is never easy, but it was made even more difficult with strong currents ranging between 2 and 3 kts. Heavy rainfall resulted in stronger currents, which were controlled with the assistance of the local authorities who regulated by opening or closing the upstream sluice gates. It was generally agreed that this is not the perfect time of year for holding such an event, and the scheduling of next year’s regatta will be reviewed in the hope of finding more consistent winds and maybe a little less rain!
Changsha is one of China’s 20 most ‘economically advanced’ cities and is keen to differentiate itself. Known as an important creative centre for TV, Changsha is also – definitely – setting the pace for inland sailing in China.
1. Yachting Queensland
Skipper Klade Hauschildt, Crew: Paul Blundell, Hayden Johnson, Seddon Cripps
Skipper Michael Vasiliev; Crew Alexander Shatkhanov, Vladimir Ganson, Dmitry Kolesnikov, Irakli Mikeladze
3. Shadowfax: Skipper Jim Gooding, and Crew: Peter Botman, Keth Salkeld, Lindsay Glaetzer
1. Team Geleshan
Skipper: Qu Qang. Crew: Yao Yong, Wang Ying Wei, Liu Guang Kun
2. UK Racing Team:
Skipper: Zhang Meng Yuan. Crew: Fu Shi Quan, Zhang Min Hang, Xing Wei Wei
3. Team Beijing Sailing Central
Skipper: Yie Xiao Ming. Crew: Huang Tao, Cheng Chen
Dinghies Laser Men
1. Wang Zili
2. Xu Ming
3. Lin GUI Kun
Dinghies Laser Radial Women
1. Zhang Dong Shuang
2. Gu Min
3. Guo Fan
Dinghies 470 Men
1. Wang Zhi Gang, Wu Lin
2. Mai Hui Cong, Chen Ze Feng
3. Ding Ming Liang, Liu Hong Ri
Dinghies 470 Women
1. Wei Meng Xi, Xu Ya Ni
2. Feng Hui Min, Huang Li Zhu
3. Zhang Meng Meng, Zhou Qian Qian
by Suzy Rayment