Tigers in Training

race report

Tigers in Training

Over the last 6 days the China Club Challenge Match organised by Iron Rock Sailing Club has been run off Xiamen, China. The first thing to state is that the standard of the teams has risen quite incredibly from even last year.

The numbers have risen also with 18 teams entered instead of the 10 of last year, sure it is easy to say that that these numbers are small compared to the west but the speed of growth in China is nothing short of exciting.

The regatta is easily the biggest ‘Chinese Regatta’, with all the teams coming from China or sailing clubs in China. China Cup run in Shenzhen at the end of October has a larger number of entries but most of them are ‘invited’ from outside China with so far this year only 11 boats entered from China.

And no less exciting were the events on the water in what can only be described as testing conditions. Umpire boats were called on not only to oversee racing but when a lifeline broke on one of the Flying Tiger 10’s being used for the event they turned into rescue boats also, scooping one crewman from the water and then as conditions freshened plucked two of the event organisers from a swamped and capsized mark boat – all in a days work.

On day one of the match racing around 90 minutes were lost as the wind got close to 30 knots requiring almost survival tactics rather than racing tactics.

The wind did however reduce sufficiently for racing to recommence and 4, by now salt encrusted umpires in two race boats took up position to attempt to get the first days program completed however with the light fading fast beyond maritime lighting up time the day ended with just 1 race from 1 match carried over until the following morning with scores standing at 1-1 between Saimeng Sailing Club from Shanghai and Microlab from Shenzhen

And what a race that turned out to be with the boats never far apart but with final honour going to Microlab.

That set up semi-finals between Microlab and Qingdao Santi and between Shanghai Boat & Yacht Club (SBYC) and Seawolf, also from Shenzhen. Seawolf had a fairly easy task against SBYC who had unfortunately lost their skipper as he had to go to back to work – sad for work to get in the way of sailing. SBYC’s task was not helped by being in the box early in Race 1 of their Semi and an OCS in Race 2.

In the other semi-final things were not so clear cut with Microlab and Qingdao Santi trading blows in each race of their flight. 1-0, 1-1 then a final race as the sun went down with first one team in the lead then the other, penalties given one way then cancelled by one back and the final result only being placed beyond doubt as the final bottom mark was rounded before theshort beat back to the finish line where the northern team of Qingdao Santi crossed the line a little further ahead than one of their earlier round victories of a matter of seconds.

The final day saw the final between Seawolf and Qingdao Santi and started off with softer breeze but this gradually built through the day and went to the decider.

This match saw the first black flag of the regatta as Santi came off the line with two flags against her. Although opportunity was there to take the turn the team didn’t and so it was game over within 100m.

In the deciding race a dramatic wipe-out by their opposition saw Seawolves make it through to the final in a finish that, although it looked like a big win all hung on that one Santi error – an error, by the way, that saw their keel waving in the air.

So to the best of 5 final. The Seawolves charged into the box from the right in a manner that reflected their name and took the match to the defenders from Wu Yuan Wan Sailing Club. Two races, one with a black flag later the team from Shenzhen stood on the threshold of taking the Challenge Cup away from Xiamen for the first time.

After another pre-start with the southern team totally in control both boats headed up the first beat. Rounding the top mark behind and the wind up around the twenties the defenders launched their kite. A bit too hurried though as the boat wasn’t quite in balance. The power of the large Flying Tiger asymmetric just tipped the balance – the balance on the Wu Yuan Wan boat that is and after a dramatic 100m ‘hanging in there’, the boat rounded up violently and Seawolf won the final 3-0.

The event, certainly the match racing part of the event was champagne sailing with the ‘L’ flag flying  most of the week signifying teams must sail with a reef, even then boats were often overpowered. The race management team got in 40 umpired races in the 6 days of the regatta, 16 fleet races and 24 match races – impressive by any standard. Penalties were relatively few, only 2 black flags and 4 contacts in the whole event, non causing injury or damage.

The event was excellently run by Iron Rock Sailing Club with a team led by organiser Rick Qu – this event is really coming of age.

The on the water umpires were Russ Parker and Steve Trebitch ‘on loan’ from North Sails in Hong Kong assisted by Li Li and myself.

As I was a bit busy driving a RIB photos were pinched from ‘Joyce’ from Hong Kong who I think has captured the essence of the event. – Shanghai Sailor