The 2016 Rolex China Sea Race will start on Wednesday 23 March in Hong Kong’s iconic Victoria Harbour and will finish 565nm later in Subic Bay in the Philippines. This year marks the 28th edition of this biennial Offshore Category 1 race, run under the auspices of RORC since 1972. Organising authority Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club (RHKYC) is hosting 33 local and overseas boats at its Kellett Island base prior to the start, including entries from Australia, China, Japan, Philippines, Russia and Singapore.
The fleet will gather for the start in front of RHKYC’s Kellett Island clubhouse after a demanding preparation period, during which all participants have been scrutineered to ensure that they satisfy the World Sailing Category 1 offshore sailing requirements (with RORC prescriptions).
Renowned as being a tricky race, the China Sea Race typically starts with grey skies in a cool Hong Kong but, after a rough and challenging first night, the skies clear and competitors can enjoy a spinnaker ride under a full moon. Once the fleet approaches the northern coast of the Philippines a strong diurnal breeze kicks in and tactics become supremely important as boats do their utmost to keep moving in the light airs of dawn and dusk.
The boats currently being touted as likely ‘Line Honours’ candidates are RP66 Alive and Banuls 60 catamaran MACH2 although in IRC Racer 0, TP52’s Freefire and Standard Subic Centennial cannot be discounted given the variable conditions approaching the finish, nor can Smith 72, Antipodes. Swan 82 UBOX, although luxurious enough to be placed in IRC Premier, is also tipped by some to lift the Sunday Telegraph Trophy if she hits the right conditions.
Current favourites for IRC Overall (on corrected time under IRC handicap) are Ker 42 Black Baza in IRC Racer 1 and, once again, Alive, however the lottery of conditions as the boats near their destination means that timing is everything and, given a perfect set of circumstances, any of the IRC entries could lift the three-legged China Sea Race trophy.
There are many different motivations for owners and crew to compete in Asia’s blue-water classic, neatly summed up by Black Baza’s Anthony Root, saying “the ultimate satisfaction is the total experience of working together as a team, the adrenaline rush of offshore reaching, harnessing the elements to maximum strategic advantage, and getting the most out of the boat.”
Armchair enthusiasts can follow the action by checking the Yellowbrick trackers at www.rhkyc.org.hk/rcsr16tracking.aspx – trackers are set to update twice an hour and have proved addictive watching for friends and family. For the more competitive voyeur, SailOnline is once again running a virtual Rolex China Sea Race. Interested armchair sailors can register for the race online at www.sailonline.org.
The Rolex China Sea Race 2016 will start in Victoria Harbour, Hong Kong, at 1320hrs (HKT) on Wednesday 23 March.