smiles abounded

One of the few major sailing events to actually go ahead, over 17th to 20th September on the water off Wu Yuan Bay, Xiamen the 16th China Club Challenge Match, fleet racing element was contested in J-80s by 41 teams from across China in what was, for the third year running, the largest one design keelboat event in Asia as well as the oldest such event in China.

The ‘Club Cup’ as it is often known started as a challenge between Iron Rock Sailing Club of Xiamen and Zhuhai Sailing Club in two very beat up J-24s. Over the years the event has been sailed in Flying Tiger 10s, FT 7.5s and for the past few years the J-80. 

With the cancellation of this year’s China Cup in Shenzhen due to that event being largely dependent on foreign charter crews and visiting yachts this also placed the event as the largest keelboat event of the year in China by a significant margin.

As boats headed out to the race area the light wind and strong tidal current led to many boats being swept down tide as they attempted to reach the racing area. The PRO however sensibly (and sensitively) delayed the start until all boats managed to sail up towards the line in the gradually strengthening breeze. The strong current pushing boat back from the line mean no early takers but for one of the most crowed committee boat ends I have seen – so many boat so close and not a single red flag in evidence. Partly shyness perhaps but also the sort of spirit this regatta has become known for.

By the start of race 2 the current had eased catching out an inordinate number of teams leading to the first extra 2 toots of the event, a general recall which was to be the first of two for that race leading to the regattas first – and to prove only – appearance of the black flag. Suddenly as the black flag came down at a minute to go instead of nearly every boat right on the line the ‘pushers’ we 10m+ back, clearly no-one wanted a ‘BFG’ to be their discard this early in the regatta.

The ‘black’ was not to be seen later in the regatta helped perhaps by the moon phase moving on and high water times occurring later and later each day along with a somewhat lower lever of impatience by the competitors.

And so was to be the pattern on day 2 and 3 of the regatta, a gently building breeze topping off on the final day with 12 knots or so meaning  tactics and choosing the right side – up AND down – was more important than hanging on for dear life.

All helped by a near flawless running by the PRO with the only blot, if one could call it a blot being in the final race as the committee boat anchor decided to give up what had become an unequal task leading to the rapid deployment of a replacement boat with the wrong flag on board. Although only a very few boats were affected a short conversation between the PRO and judges led to the correct abandonment of the race.

Smiles abounded every day as the sailors returned to shore continuing on to the prizegiving and regatta dinner on the final evening showing the priority with such an event – having fun – had once again been achieved in spades. Not that competition isn’t important but the fact that this event is run in such an enjoyable and fair atmosphere must surely be one of the primary reasons for its continued growth and success.

For the record, the ladies trophy was won by Shanghai JaiTong University EMBA, Yunan Fuxian Lakes carried off the Corinthian prize while overall the top three teams were 1) Beijing Sailing Centre, 2) Xiamen Ocean Vocational College and 3) Big Boys. 

The Club Cup Fleet Racing is the precursor for the match racing element with the top 12 teams going forward to return to Xiamen to battle for the honour of challenging the current holder. The dates of that are currently in abeyance as it is not possible for the calibre of International Umpires to enter China and he decision was made by the Organisers (and readily endorsed by the competitors) that it was better to wait to do things right rather than run a lesser event.

There are some video snapshots of the event at https://youtu.be/A-pPk6ecv1I