Yesterday was the first day of the China Club Challenge Match in Xiamen. Sailing Anarchy has followed this event over the years and seen it grow in size and more importantly quality to become one of China’s premier sailing events and certainly the top match racing event in the country.
With the entry list of 30 full literately months before the event, now in its 11th iteration is China’s oldest keelboat regatta and follows an unusual format. It started as a challenge between two sailing clubs, Ironrock S.C. from Xiamen and Zhuhai S.C. in beat up J24s and is generally limited to sailors who do their sailing in Greater China.
The event starts with fleet racing over 3 days to reduce the teams to a top flight that then progress a few weekends later to a full on match race tournament testing the skills of the sailors over the two main inshore disciplines of keelboat racing.
Such is the keenness of many of these teams that they arrived in Xiamen 2 days early, careened their boats over and spent long hours in the water making sure their bottoms (the boats that is) was as clean as possible for the racing ahead.
To keep the sailors honest RRS Addendum Q is used (look it up on sailing.org) during the fleet racing with International Umpires John Rountree and Wayne Bobnerg, both flown in from New Zealand for the event, assisted by two local sailors policing the fleet.
With a fleet that included sailors at every level from the Volvo Ocean Race to those competing in their first regatta there was some nifty sailing through to right royal snarl ups. No criticism intended as we were all beginners once and the primary commonality running through the fleet was the width of the smiles on the sailors’ faces. One or two headaches for the officials along the way and a few – only a few – sailors who thought decisions should have gone differently but that’s often the way.
The first ‘off’ was delayed a couple of hours as the wind just didn’t want to play but around noon a gentle sea breeze arrived at around 6 knots slowly building over the afternoon to around 9. Sailed in the Flying Tiger 7.5 this breeze was enough to give one or two interesting moments to the less experienced and provide interest to those on the spectator boats provided by the organizers.
A healthy – or unhealthy – depending on your viewpoint- tide provided the odd log jams at the committee boat on the start line and, with the close racing, at the first top mark which, with the ever watchful umpire teams breathing down their necks encouraged sailors to take their medicine on the spot. Those that didn’t were faced with one turn instead of two (once again read Addendum Q)
The common problem of bow prodders being used as potential jousting sticks was policed by an SI’s amendment which saw several teams having a flag pointed at them leading to a couple of extra gyrations before being able to continue on their way. Of course 2 umpire teams amongst 30 boats cannot catch every incident but the visits to the umpire’s table were much reduced with most sailors, as you would expect, accepting their medicine with good grace.
The day started with an opening ceremony and concluded with a welcoming dinner (the Chinese way you could perhaps say) leaving the sailors eager to rejoin battle on Day 2, some I suspect with sore heads from one of the sponsors excellent micro-brewery beer. Close at the top with some quite large scores at the bottom of the fleet and a few sailors that had been absent from the event amazed at the rise in quality while they had been away. Another long hot day ahead I suspect.