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Black Baza outwits bigger boats in slow race to China

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Black Baza outwits the bigger boats in Slow Race to China
Black Baza outwits the bigger boats in Slow Race to China

Black Baza won the opening salvo of the 10th China Cup International Regatta after taking line honours in the opening day of this four-day event, the Hong Kong to Shenzhen Passage Race.

Anthony Root’s Ker 42 custom footer outsmarted her larger competition in the extremely light and patchy breezes and managed to pick a way through the wind holes to take the winner’s gun ahead of the bigger boats. Among Root’s crew is double Olympic medallist Jo Aleh, who is calling strategy on Black Baza. “We were climbing up on the boom at times, to get a good look around at the best of the breeze,” said the Kiwi superstar. “It wasn’t really a boatspeed day, just about keeping yourself in the wind, wherever you could find it.” On handicap Black Baza finished 2nd behind last year’s division winner, Hero Racing skippered by Tiffany Koo.

Among those that suffered in the light airs was Jelik, the 75ft Reichel/Pugh racing sled skippered by Frank Pong. “We went left towards the shore, and I should have known better,” admitted Pong. “The forecast said it was going to go right and I should have paid attention because that’s exactly what it did. We were leading nicely off the start line, but when the new breeze came in, the boats out to sea had at least twice as much wind as we did, and they sailed around us and straight past us to the finish.”

Jelik was one of many boats that failed to finish before the 4pm cut-off time. The leading Beneteau 40.7s were within spitting distance of the finish line but weren’t quite soon enough for any of the fleet to get a score on the board. Yiihua & Pocket Team New Zealand were among the frontrunners, leading for a while and in the top three on the approach to the finish according to mainsheet man Laurie Jury. “We were going pretty well in pretty difficult conditions,” he said. “Frustrating not to get a score but the whole fleet not finishing basically means that everyone has used up their discard already. You can’t afford any bad races for the rest of the regatta now.”

Multiple World Champion in the 18ft Skiff, Seve Jarvin is steering defending champion Wanhang Longcheer which also took a turn at the front of the Beneteau 40.7 fleet. “The team has a pretty good record at this event but the competition is looking tougher than ever this time,” said Jarvin. “We were up near the front today but it was probably Mandrake that were closest to the finish when the time limit ran out.” Team Mandrake is a Hong Kong boat skippered by British sailor Nick Burns, with an experienced crew that includes two sailors - Olivier Decamps and Ken Wiltshire - that have competed at every one of the 10 editions of the China Cup.

The light winds look set to continue on Friday, the final bit of the hangover after a big typhoon hit this region a week ago. Saturday and Sunday promise better breeze, so this edition of the China Cup is certain to test a variety of racing skills. Principal race officer Simon James is looking to keep things interesting with a variety of course formats for the three days of inshore racing. On Thursday evening the international teams gathered the Sheraton Hotel Dameisha for a lavish and spectacular opening ceremony, before getting a good night’s sleep in preparation for some close competition on the waters of Daya Bay.


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