Pryde braced for tough challenge in dash to Vietnam
Top Australian sailor Ludde Ingvall could give leading Hong Kong counterpart Neil Pryde a run for his money when the China Coast Race Week gets underway tomorrow off the south of Hong Kong Island.
The China Coast Race Week comprises a three-day regatta in the lumpy and taxing waters off the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club's Middle Island home followed by the 656-nautical mile VinaCapital Hong Kong to Vietnam Race beginning next Wednesday. The latter race was postponed from last year because of Super Typhoon Megi, and Pryde will be itching to make up for lost time as he aims to win line honours, a feat he accomplished the last time the race was held in 2008.
'We will be doing our best to repeat our successes this year. We have a strong crew and the boat is well-prepared, so we will certainly be giving it our best shot,' said Pryde, who will be at the helm of a modified Welbourne 52. 'I have participated in China Coast Race Week almost every year the event has been held, and this is no doubt one of the highlights of racing here in Asia. The wind conditions we get in Hong Kong in October are ideal and it is always great to kick off the Asian circuit with a good result in Hong Kong because the competition is tough.'
Sam Chan, and his revamped TP52, Freefire, have been singled out as Pryde's biggest local challenge in this event. 'They are a tough competitor with a very fast boat. However, we have a strong crew and Hi Fi is a proven boat, so we are optimistic we can meet this challenge,' said Pryde, who will also have to watch out for Ingvall.
Ingvall (pictured), a two-time world champion, will co-skipper Audi Ultra, which measures a massive 27.5 metres long, 4.5 metres wide and 44.5 metres high, and is widely expected to be a top contender for line honours in the Hong Kong to Vietnam race.
'The China Coast Regatta is one of the premier regattas in the region and one I have heard a lot about. Yacht racing and big boat sailing in Asia is developing very fast and it feels right to come to Hong Kong and have some fun,' said Ingvall, a two-time competitor in the Whitbread Round the World Race, and a two-time winner of the Rolex Fastnet Race and the Rolex Sydney to Hobart Race.
Ingvall, however, acknowledged that he faces some challenges ahead. He said: 'The Audi Ultra is a very high-tech, ultra-light boat for her size and only built for speed and to be first across the line. We are simply too big for the short courses of the China Coast Regatta, but would hope to be able to secure line honours in most of the starts.
'That will only happen if our crew work is good enough and we do not make any mistakes, especially as the smaller boats are a lot more agile and generally easier to sail.'
The Hong Kong to Vietnam record is held by Grant Wharington's Skandia Wild Thing, finishing in 42 hours, 45 minutes and 41 seconds in 2004.
Hopes are high that the Singapore-based Audi Ultra will break this record. 'We hope to be the fastest boat for the course and if the weather allows, we would like to be given the opportunity to break the record,' Ingvall said. 'But that is up to the weather gods. On handicap, our only chance to win would be if the winds decrease after we finish or we have to sail a flawless race.'
35 boats will participate in the opening three-day regatta. A fleet of nine boats will make the challenging dash to Nha Trang in Vietnam.
The weight, in tonnes, of the Audi Ultra Super Maxi racing yacht. It is one of only seven such yachts in the world