Wanhang Longcheer kept a close eye on Emirates Team New Zealand to secure victory in the Beneteau 40.7 fleet at the China Cup International Regatta. Aussie skipper of Longcheer Steve McConaghy was understandably delighted to have won in the 25-boat fleet, arguably the toughest competition among all nine divisions at China’s premier yachting regatta.
“I’m over the moon,” smiled McConaghy. “It has been a great week of sailing, some really good wind and lots of good competition. This regatta just seems to be getting better and better.” As to beating Emirates Team New Zealand: “The game plan was to stay with them, keep the game close. I said to the guys as long as we start close to them we shouldn't have too much trouble, which is what we did, and then we had the game won.”
Skipper of Emirates Team New Zealand, Guy Pilkington, admitted to a mix of emotions at finishing runner-up to Longcheer. “A little bit disappointed and pleased,” said the Kiwi. “We had the chance to win, but it's a young team, the first time we've sailed together and I think we've done an exceptional job overall.”
The previous day, ETNZ had taken the lead on the long round-the-island race but sailed extra distance compared with the rest of the fleet, believing they had sailed the correct course and that the majority were in error. A protest hearing went against them, and the Kiwis had to settle for 12th in that race. That was probably the moment when the Kiwi challenge to Longcheer faded. “I think it came down to that,” said Pilkington. “We believed we were right, as per the sailing instructions. There's a bit of an interpretation issue and I think they will tidy up the details for next year to make it a bit fairer. But ETNZ is keen to come back to China Cup if we get the opportunity. It's a good way to build the brand of ETNZ and also to promote youth sailing in the country.”
Pilkington’s disappointment in the 40.7s was softened by seeing the sailors that he coaches in the youth squad of the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron dominate the 20-boat fleet of FarEast 28Rs. “Matt Kelly and his team have done a phenomenal job this week. Their worst race was a 4th place.”
Principal race officer Simon James continued to keep the racing format varied on the final day, with one windward/leeward short course race followed by a round-island race. In IRC A, Frank Pong’s majestic 75-footer Jelik III finished strongly with a 2,1 in the moderate breezes, but it wasn’t enough to topple Tiffany Koo and Hero Racing Team who scored 1,2 and won the division comfortably. Koo’s crew have never raced together as a team before but this week they really hit the ground running.
In IRC B, Cheng Ying Kit and the other veterans of the Volvo Ocean Race from Dongfeng Race Team sailed well today to win around the island, but Nick Southward and his shipmates on the J/109 Whiskey Jack did enough to successfully defend their title. In IRC C, Shawn Kang’s Beneteau 50, Lighthorse, won every race to win her division by a country mile.
In HKPN A, the outcome couldn’t have been closer, with Yang Yongheng’s PDSTi Xiongtao beating Tiger Zeng’s TT on tiebreak, thanks to winning more races in the series, including the final one. It was close in HKPN B as well, although Sleeepy Pigggy’s victory in the last race gave Raymond Lam Wai Kin and his crew on the Peterson 37 victory by 2 points from Alberto Carraro’s Sky City.
Zhang Zuan and the Dalian Naval Academy Sailing Team were clear winners in the ASAF Class. The USA’s Jim Johnston and his crew of students were runaway winners of the J/80 one-design fleet.
This evening the teams attended the final prizegiving and closing ceremony at the Sheraton Hotel Dameisha. The 111 teams from nations all around the world will look back on four days of tough competition and start their plans for returning to the 10th edition of the China Cup International Regatta in October 2016.
– Regatta Media