Pryde's Fidelity facing early test from Jelik

PUBLISHED : Friday, 29 March, 2002, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 29 March, 2002, 12:00am

Rain and mist couldn't prevent Neil Pryde's Hi Fidelity from getting off to a sound start as the 2002 China Sea Race got underway in poor conditions off Steep Island, Clearwater Bay, yesterday.

Pryde, who is bidding to win this race and complete a clean sweep of the four-leg Asian Yachting circuit, crossed the start line first with Robert Knight's Rhythm Stick trailing as the 600-nautical mile odyssey to Punta Fuego on the coast of Luzon in the Philippines began.

'It was a gentle start in unpleasant conditions. But the majority of the fleet got off to a good start,' race officer Graham Jackson said. The last boat to cross the start line was Electra, skippered by Marcel Leidts. It took Electra 30 minutes to get underway, the delay because of a steering problem.

Winds of eight knots were forecast for the start of Hong Kong's premier off-shore race, but they died down to six knots, causing problems for a number of yachts in the 29-strong fleet.

Leading Hong Kong sailor Pryde is bidding to win this race and add it to his string of first place finishes at the Raja Muda regatta in Malaysia, the King's Cup in Phuket, Thailand, and the Singapore Straits regatta, the three previous legs of the Asian Yachting series.

But all indications are that Pryde will have a battle on his hands. At the first mark, about two miles from the start line, Frank Pong's Jelik had overtaken Hi Fidelity and sent out a clear message that the race would be a close tussle.

The race record was set last time, in 2000, when Karl Kwok's Beau Geste blitzed the field in a time of 47 hours, 43 minutes and seven seconds. 'I don't expect the record to be broken this time. We don't have the boats able to do that,' Pryde, who is also chairman of the race committee, said before the race.

The first boat is expected to reach Punta Fuego by Sunday. Pryde is hoping it will be Hi Fidelity.