Two-boat race for China Sea honours
THE battle for line honours in the 650 nautical-mile China Sea Race has developed into a two-boat tussle between the 73-foot ketch, Stormvogel, and the high-tech Whitbread 40, Millennium.
The two boats exploited the windy overnight conditions to open up a 12-mile lead over the main body of the fleet according to position reports at yesterday morning's radio schedule.
Both craft had tended to drift a little north of the rhumb line (the shortest distance from start to finish).
By late yesterday afternoon Stormvogel had used her greater waterline length and sail area to forge a 13-mile advantage over Millennium with Philippines-based Benneteau 51, Vida, also taking full toll of the 16-knot north-to-northeasterly conditions.
Vida, skippered by Ray Ordoveza, was only seven miles astern of Millennium with Hong Kong boats Bimblegumbie and J-Hawk only a mile astern, most likely with eyeshot of each other.
The South African-built Stormvogel, which is now based in Singapore, averaged 81/2 knots for the first 24 hours and at its current rate of progress could arrive in Manila early on Monday.
Race officials in Manila said last night it was too early to speculate on whether Stormvogel could break the race record which would have her over the finish line in Manila Bay before 11 pm on Sunday.
Traditionally the winds decrease as competitors near the coast and become variable.
The five-strong Filipino contingent in the 44-strong fleet led by Vida are all doing well.
Henry Kaye's X119, Lethal Weapon, sold to Eduardo Echaul of the Manila Yacht Club only five weeks ago, is seventh on the water.
Lethal Weapon took top honours in the IMS Class in the 1992 edition of the race and is well placed for a repeat.
On corrected time Vida leads the CHS class from Henry Thornton's J-44, J-Hawk with another Filipino competitor, the Macintosh 47-footer, Kalayaan II.
Last night's position reports indicated that the fleet was spreading out with nearly 100 miles separating Stormvogel and Lassir, a De Haan-designed 43-foot sloop.
Only one craft reported gear damage overnight in the lumpy seas, Norm Martel aboard his Dufour 36-footer, Gypsy.
A forestay broke forcing Martel to return to Hong Kong for repairs. But the China Sea Race veteran was under way again late yesterday afternoon.
It is the first bluewater outing for Frank Pong's revolutionary 40-footer Millennium which features an innovative shifting water ballast system to optimise her passage through the waves.
A scaled down version of the Whitbread 60s which are currently contesting the Whitbread Round-the-World Yacht Race, Millennium is the first water-ballasted boat to compete on a Royal Ocean Racing Club-sanctioned handicap mark against conventional craft.