The opening day of the 105-boat China Cup International Regatta saw old rivalries renewed in the Beneteau 40.7 class, as Vatti Sailing stole victory from Vanke Longcheer in the opening Simpson Marine Passage Race from Hong Kong to Shenzhen.
With the wind blowing 14 to 18 knots, and some big waves on the upwind course, Huang Jianhua’s Vanke Longcheer held the lead for the majority of the three-hour race. But in the final stages of the 18-mile course, Vatti Sailing managed to find a way past their rivals to steal victory just before the finish.
This was Vatti Sailing’s third consecutive victory in the Simpson Marine Passage Race, although last year Jono Rankine’s professional crew were concerned at the speed of Vanke Longcheer which went on to win the regatta overall. This generated a controversial dispute within the fleet, with Vanke Longcheer bringing their own suit of racing sails while the majority of the fleet were using standard suits provided for the regatta. A change in the rules has put an end to that problem for this year, so the hope is for a closer contest between more evenly matched boats.
However there is no limit to the quality of sailors permitted, and the two professional crews on board Vatti Sailing and Vanke Longcheer today finished a long way ahead of the rest of the 22-boat fleet. Rankine has brought back a number of last year’s crew including former 470 World Champion Simon Cooke and America’s Cup veteran Ed Smyth, along with newcomer to the China Cup, the 470 double Olympic Champion from Australia, Malcolm Page. Another bunch of top-level Antipodeans are racing Vanke Longcheer, including 18ft skiff World Champion Seve Jarvin and Kiwi match racer Will Tiller on the wheel.
“Nice to win three in a row,” said Cooke, who steered Vatti Sailing today. But there was a feeling that Vatti hadn’t so much won the race as Vanke had lost it. Not that Will Tiller saw it quite as simply as that. “We had a seven boatlength lead on Vatti,” he said, “when they got a slightly different breeze behind us and started lifting off the inside of us. Not a lot we could do from there.” Some way back to the leading duo was Rick Pointon’s Beijing Sailing Center which won the China Cup in 2011. “We thought it might be hard keeping up with the other two with their new sails,” said Pointon, “but we sailed pretty well, working hard. Not much time to take in the scenery!”
For line honours, there was never much doubt that it would be Frank Pong’s Reichel-Pugh 75, Jelik III, which tore up the track in a time of just 2 hours, 13 minutes and 58 seconds, and beat Olivier Decamps’ Farr 40 Ramrod on corrected time by almost 10 minutes in IRC Division A. IRC Division B also delivered a line-honours and corrected-time winner, with Daniel Andrieu’s Jeanneau Sun Fast 3600, Dongfeng Race Team, dominating the competition. “She’s a rocket ship,” said round-the-world racer Nick Moloney soon after he stepped ashore. There’s a lot of attention on this boat, with a number of the Chinese crew also likely to feature on future legs of the Volvo Ocean Race which got underway from Spain two weeks ago.
Shawn Kang’s Beneteau 50, Lighthorse, continued their winning ways from last year, taking IRC C by a big margin from Zhu Li Xiong’s Hanse 575, Team Shanghai. Tiger Zeng’s TT won HKPN Division A, and Deng Fan’s Barracuda won HKPN B. The one-design fleets, the SOTO 27 and Fareast 28R divisions, get racing tomorrow when the inshore competition begins. Principal race officer Simon James told competitors that he is looking to mix up the format a bit more this year, with less emphasis on windward/leewards and a greater focus on a variety of courses for some of the fleets.
– China Cup Media