First Harbour start for Hong Kong to Vietnam yacht race
Organisers hope switch from Lamma will make Hong Kong event a match for Sydney-Hobart
Yachts competing in the Hong Kong to Vietnam race will, for the first time, set off today from Victoria Harbour - a move organisers hope will help make the event as spectacular as the world- famous Sydney to Hobart race.
They want "people looking out of their windows" to have the chance to see some of the best ocean-racing yachts in full sail.
Until now the race, held every two years, has started from Lamma Island. "We want to raise the profile of the event and decided a harbour start is far better," said Alex Johnston, Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club sailing manager. "We want to make this event as accessible as we can for the public, the media and the sponsors. It will be a great spectacle watching these majestic boats racing down the harbour."
This year's San Fernando race to the Philippines successfully set off from the harbour.
Johnston has his fingers crossed, though, because if the winds are poor at noon, the start line will be moved back to the waters off Lamma.
"The forecast right now is looking good and hopefully the winds will remain strong, giving people who have a view of the harbour the chance to watch. It will be far better than starting from Lamma, where very few people will turn up," Johnston said.
Shifting the start line to near the yacht club's Kellett Island base adjoining the Causeway Bay typhoon shelter also means a new course record will be set, since it will add an additional 17 nautical miles to the 656-mile course from Hong Kong to Nha Trang in south-central Vietnam.
"If it is a harbour start, a new record is assured and we will be gunning for that," said Geoff Hill, who will be aboard hot favourite Ragamuffin 90. "It is fairly windy and we are fully prepared, having replaced our rigging over the last couple of days."
Grant Wharington's Skandia holds the race record of 43 hours 45 minutes and 41 seconds, set in 2004 for the biennial race.
Seventeen boats will take part in the race, but all eyes will be on the only two of super-maxi class - Ragamuffin and Chivas Racing - as they battle for line honours.