Vanke Longcheer steals China Cup victory

The China Cup International Regatta saved the best for last by producing the strongest breeze of the regatta for the final day. It set up the perfect showdown in some of the closely fought classes, with the 103-boat fleet sent on a 13-mile Round the Island Race in the morning followed by a concluding short-course race.

Most competitive of the eight fleets was the 22-boat Beneteau 40.7 class. Finding space on the start line was not easy and one of the leading contenders, Beijing Sailing Center, could only manage a second-row start by the committee boat. Vanke Longcheer got the best start at the pin end and soon had arch-rival Vatti Sailing falling into her bad air.

However, Vanke was upstaged by Australian team, John Hearne’s WOB Gloria Star, which showed impressive pace to win the island circumnavigation, with Vanke in 2nd, Vatti in 4th and Beijing back in 6th.

Jono Rankine’s team would have to sail their socks off in the final race if they were to make up the 2-point gap to Vanke Longcheer. The green boat won the race, but the yellow shirts were too consistent and by coming 2nd, clinched the regatta by a single point. The winning tactician, 18ft skiff World Champion Seve Jarvin, grinned: “It was an awesome day in the end, But it was stressful! The crew did a fantastic job, we kept it clean and got off the line well. We ended up winning by a point which is awesome. We felt like the boat was going well and we gelled as a team.”

For the second year running, the 2012 winners have played second fiddle to Vanke Longcheer. But after a sail controversy last year, Vatti helmsman Simon Cooke felt better about finishing runner-up this time, with tighter controls on the one-design aspect of the 40.7 fleet. “Of course we’re disappointed not to have won, and we really gave away the regatta yesterday with some poor results. But I'm excited that it has been more one-design this year than before. I hope that lots of really good international sailors come back to do this event again and I hope that the regatta officials continue to make it even more one-design.

“I think this is the best regatta in Asia for this kind racing. You've seen the competition come down to a few points and a few boatlengths, and that's so much better than it was last year.”

For others it was their first experience of the event, and for Kent Wretman and his fellow Swedes on Team Grandsegel it was a very successful debut in the Fareast 28R class. “We bought the boat from the drawing, we'd never seen it in the flesh, and we were pleasantly surprised when we stepped aboard for the first time three days ago. It has been a very steep learning curve all the way through the regatta. We had our best day today with a 1,2. This is our first time in China, our first China Cup. It’s been overwhelming! A big event, nicely organised, a lot of volunteers. We're definitely coming back to the China Cup.” But for a disqualification and starting too early in another race, the Swedes might well have won the Fareast 28R division, but instead that honour went to Stanley Chan’s Team Constant Wind from Singapore.

In the other one-design fleet, the SOTO 27s, Tiffany Koo has raced seven China Cups before, but apart from a line honours victory aboard the Maxi yacht Jelik, this was her first victory at the event. Koo and her crew on CMGE/ KRT won in style, taking five wins from seven races. Not that the team’s victory was entirely a surprise. “We had a fixed crew, and we did three events before the China Cup, so we have got used to the boat already. The first day of the regatta was great for us, when we took three bullets.”

Koo’s former skipper, Frank Pong, steered his Reichel-Pugh 75-footer, Jelik, to IRC Division A victory ahead of HuaAn Sailing Team. In IRC B, Dongfeng Race Team beat last year’s winners, Nick Southward’s J/109 Whiskey Jack. In IRC C, the defending champion Lighthorse won the final four races in the series but a set of retirements early in the week meant that the clear winner was HNA Dream Team skippered by Li Xiaojing.

In the HKPN handicap fleets, Y.K. Szeto’s Hua’an Cutting Edge won Division A with a string of first places. In Division B, Tim Ridley’s Scintilla beat Deng Fan’s Barracuda.

In the evening the teams went to the final prizegiving and closing ceremony at the Sheraton Hotel Dameisha. The 103 teams from nations all around the world will look back on four days of tough competition and start their plans for returning to the 9th edition of the China Cup International Regatta in October 2015.

– Sailing Intelligence

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