the match game


the match game

The boats are prepared, the sailors are starting to arrive, the marks are inflated and the umpires are recruited. The China Club Challenge Match its 6th annual running.

The event disproves the somewhat exaggerated claims of other events to be the first keelboat regatta in China and the pride of the grassroots sailors who started the event and helped it  developed is palpable, and rightly so.

This is no big budget event with fleets arriving with loud fanfare, bought or otherwise, no massive sponsorship and no corporation behind them.

Sure they have had funding from local companies and individuals but as much from a desire to promote sailing and the city of Xiamen as from a desire for a commercial return. Indeed the backbone of the whole event is the local sailing enthusiasts who invest time, effort and YES their own money for what has become China’s premier event and what is,  by the sailors at any rate, China’s most looked forward to keelboat event.

The China Club Challenge Match started as an America’s Cup type challenge between iron rock Sailing Club and ZhuHai Sailing Club in 2005. The boats however weren’t quite so grand – they were a couple of beat up old J24s.

Team numbers have climbed steadily year on year and while there are obviously some there just for fun – and there is nothing wrong with that – and others for the experience, the top teams are both serious and capable.

A popular part of the event in the past, set to continue this year, is the evening debriefings started a couple of years ago by the then Chief Umpire, Nev Whittey, who himself had a couple of America’s Cups as umpire under his belt. These have always been well attended and judging by the number of questions raised and the fact they usually overrun are considered worthwhile by the sailors.

The umpires this year hail from Australia, Scotland, Sweden, England and of course China and include match race champions in their own right. Their role for the first half of the event being gone the water witnesses and of course gathering material for their evening debriefing sessions while in the latter part of the week sees them as on  the water umpires responding to the, what if last year is anything to go by, frequent waving of the ‘Y’ flag.

I suspect that part of  the reason for the event’s popularity with the competitors is that very fact that it is closely umpired and seen to be run with the utmost fairness and a strict adherence to the rules ensuring the best boat wins on the day.

Defending champions Seawolf from Longcheer Yacht Club in Shenzhen will likely have their work cut out if they are hang on to the trophy they won so well in 2009 – there are a lot of sailors that would like it displayed in their home club. – Shanghai Sailor.