china-4China’s longest running regatta, the China Club Challenge Match Challenger Finals was sailed in Xiamen over the weekend of 4th – 6th  November.

30 hopefuls in the fleet racing element had been whittled down to the 8 finalists who entered the match racing fully umpired event.

Now in its 12 year with the finals being part of Xiamen World Ocean Week this is the longest running keelboat regatta in China. Unlike some others it is primarily targeted at sailors who do their sailing in China and for many (some would say most) it is the must do keelboat regatta in the PRC. This is evidenced by the fact that the original entry list was oversubscribed 3 months before the initial fleet racing element.

Those 30 teams were whittled down to the 8 teams invited back to compete in the match racing this past weekend.

Two full round robins saw the race committee getting off 28 races a day for two days in challenging light air conditions which only completed as the sun sank below the high rise buildings surrounding Wu Yuan Bay on day two. On the water things were kept in order by IU’s Wayne Boberg (NZL) and John Rountree (NZL) assisted by locals Alistair Skinner (GBR) and Ginger (CHN).

Play of the first two days was when the Xiamen University team, carrying a penalty noticed their opponent was obstructed by the match ahead. They spun down into their turn and popped out into clear air turning the double disadvantage of a penalty and being behind to a healthy lead, a move that brought nods of approval from the following umpire boat.

Competition was tight with round robin 1 leaving 3 teams on equal points and a potentially difficult tie-break situation where A beat B beat C beat A. The second round robin provided the split leaving Big Boys Sailing and J-Boats Racing Team, both former winners of the event, being joined at the top of the rankings by Xiamen University Team and Blue Ocean Sailing.

The semis most certainly didn’t go to form with Big Boys being eliminated down to the Petite Final and J-Boats Racing Team having a tougher than expected task against the Xiamen University team before they prevailed through to the main event.

china-5The final was equally surprising with the Blue Ocean Sailing taking out J-Boats Race Team 3-0 in the pre-starts to then extend the whole way round the track, a clear case of the rich getting richer with the podium filled out by Xiamen University who pushed former winners Big Boys Sailing down to 4th.

From a personal point of view it was nice to see Xiamen University reach to podium as this team was skippered by Eddie, now a tutor at the university but who made his first appearance at the event as a fresh faced undergraduate, a clear case of practice and experience – as well as tenacity – eventually producing the goods.

Also good to see an event that, although the racing was close, hard fought and combative and sailed in chartered boats, unlike some regattas in China, any contact between boats was almost so slight the ‘bump’ was barely audible on the umpire boats and none resulted in any damage whatsoever.

Little wonder this has led some commentators to describe the China Club Challenge Match as the most ‘genuine’ regatta in China.