The spirit of yachting is alive and kicking in the city with 26 boats set to take the rum line from Hong Kong to Subic Bay in the Philippines tomorrow to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Rolex China Sea Race.
Organisers said yesterday that new maxi Genuine Risk, owned by Geoff Hill, had a genuine chance of breaking the record for the dash to Subic Bay, established in 2000 by Karl Kwok's Beau Geste.
'I believe Genuine Risk can do it this year. Last year, Neil Pryde and HiFi came close, but this 90-footer is almost twice the size of HiFi and is in with a realistic chance of setting a new course record,' race chairman Richard Strompf said.
Genuine Risk, a Dubois 90 maxi which was commissioned only last month, has to finish the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club's flagship event in less than 47 hours, 43 minutes and seven seconds.
Hill (pictured) has already faced a huge challenge in getting the boat ready for its first race. 'We only had limited time to commission the boat and tune her up. The other challenge was to put together an experienced crew and moulding them into a team,' he said. 'I'm fortunate in having a very good nucleus available from my Strewth team here and I have been able to attract some Australian and American sailors with big-boat experience.'
Hill bought the boat last year. Built to state-of-the-art specifications in 2004 for more than US$8 million, the boat had only been lightly raced by its previous owners - less than 50 days. Along with the boat, Hill also got two containers full of equipment and an entire suite of 2011 sails. He is looking forward to his first opportunity to race with his new boat.
'I regard the Rolex China Sea Race as one of the true offshore blue-water classics, and I have done most in the same category such as the Newport-Bermuda race because, unlike the Sydney to Hobart, you are genuinely offshore for most of the race. I also enjoy the fact it's a very tactical race and therefore you really need to get your navigation correct, particularly in the Philippines sector,' he said.
The 565 nautical mile race is usually a breeze at the start but it gets tricky close to Subic Bay, as Pryde discovered last year when the wind all but died and he failed to break the old mark. Pryde will be one contender Hill will be keeping a close eye on.
'My major competition will be firstly the sea and the weather as they will determine who wins the race. Having said this, this race can often be a small-boat race and on handicap there are plenty of contenders, ranging from Neil Pryde, who has had a lock on first place with HiFi, to Anthony Root on Red Kite II, who has also been very successful. And on handicap, you can never leave out Nick Burns and Fred Kinmonth's EFG Bank Mandrake,' Hill said.
Only five boats took part in the first year in 1962. Fifty years later, it has grown into a special event.
'Fifty years is a significant milestone for any sailing event, and the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club is proud the course from Hong Kong to the Philippines has grown to become our flagship sailing event, one which is widely recognised as Asia's premier offshore race,' said the club's commodore, Ambrose Lo.
The title sponsors will be capturing the show on film for their Spirit of Yachting series, which explores some of the most exciting events in the world of sailing.