Wanhang Longcheer steals the lead ahead of final day at China Cup

Wanhang Longcheer has seized control of the Beneteau 40.7 fleet after winning the round-the-island race today at the China Cup International Regatta. Arch-rival Emirates Team New Zealand had been leading in the early stages, as helmsman Chris Steele explained: “We led the fleet for the first half of the race. We and Longcheer broke out from the rest of the fleet and it was a pretty good battle for a while and then we set up to go around a group of islands which we thought was the correct course and they gybed off and reached away and sailed inside a couple of the islands. So there's a big debate now as to what the correct course was.

“There are protests being lodged, so we're unsure where we finished in that race. We maybe won it, or maybe finished 12th depending on whether we did the right course or not. It's all up in the air at the moment and we need to get together with the race committee and protest committee and find out who's right and who's wrong.” Almost all the fleet followed Longcheer, so if Emirates Team New Zealand were to win their protest, it could result in disqualification for the rest of the Beneteau 40.7s. Or it could be that Emirates were wrong all along. A long night was in store for John Doerr and his experienced International Jury, resolving this and other disputes from the day’s racing.

As things stand, Steve McConaghy and the team on Wanhang Longcheer hold a good lead in the overall standings, with Emirates giving themselves a lot to do in 2nd place, and with Timothy Davis’s Beijing Sailing Centre in 3rd going into the final day. Chris Steele admits there is a certain pressure and expectation that comes with wearing the black jersey of ETNZ but that he’s loving every moment. “If you're not enjoying it, you're probably not up to it. We're very fortunate to be doing it this week for ETNZ, need to come out tomorrow, iron out the mistakes and see if we can come up with a good result.”

In the FarEast 28R one-design division, Matt Clark and the youth team from Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron continue to make good progress, winning two of the day’s three races and looking strong for the overall win tomorrow.

As for the big boats competing in IRC Division A, Tiffany Koo’s Hero Racing Team is looking unstoppable after winning the short race and also the longer round-the-island race today. “We didn't have a good start because another boat was blocking us,” said Koo. “But then we managed to catch up in the strong breeze. Our boat’s performance was good. Tomorrow we hope to keep getting a good result and probably win the China Cup. Everyone will be really happy about this, because we didn't actually train, we just got together on day one and took it from there. I have an awesome crew. We get on very well, it has really clicked between us.”

After a hiccup yesterday sailing a wrong course and scoring a Did Not Finish, Whiskey Jack made amends with a strong performance in IRC B. That said, Nick Southward’s J/109 is still only 1.5 points ahead of China Sailing Tour 1, a Jeanneau 30 skippered by Cheng Ying Kit, who competed in the Volvo Ocean Race with Dongfeng Race Team earlier this year. “We’ve got some work to do tomorrow,” said Southward, looking to defend his title from last year. “It’s been another great week so far, great racing, great beer. One more day to go and hopefully it will be a good one for us.”

It was another packed and busy day in the race village. For many Chinese visitors, it’s their first exposure to the sport of sailing. The sight of more than a hundred boats out on the water, not to mention a flotilla of children’s Optimist dinghies, was an impressive spectacle. It was also a first opportunity for famous Chinese actor, Victor Huang, to take the wheel of a yacht as dozens of photographers caught the moment.

The final day of the China Cup is forecast for lighter winds, although principal race officer Simon James remains hopeful of completing the schedule in time for the final prizegiving at the Sheraton Hotel Dameisha.

– Regatta Media

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