This took place on Sunday Nov 20th.
Course is HK Island to Starboard, with a number of racing marks on the southern shore which have to be left to port to keep the yachts out of the very busy shipping lanes. Also there are a couple of small islands which must be left to starboard and a final starboard turning mark to line the fleet up for the final beat up the harbour from the west.
The starting and handicapping is similar to IOW RTIR with two start lines off the Club House, with an event handicap based on IRC with non IRC boats slotted in as the handicappers see fit.
Simultaneously Starting from the southern point of the island, from the Middle Island clubhouse is the RTIR for outriggers. These are strange craft in which the occupants, eschewing the wind that nature has provided, expend vast amounts of energy paddling the boats along. With gentle coaxing and the offer of rum and coke, and genial relaxed company whilst letting the sails do the work the male paddlers can usually be brought back into the fold. The female paddlers on the other hand strike fear into the souls of the humble and gentle sailing folk. With their highly developed physiques, bulging biceps, and steely eyed, they are best avoided.
Fortunately by starting at the same time, 12 miles apart, the chance of contact is reduced, providing you don’t run out of wind. In contrast the paddlers seem to be allowed to replace worn out crew on the way round, unlike on an Impala where crews whose performance may have slipped just a little below par are sent below for a rest, to the sound of waves lapping gently on the hull, and kind encouraging words of advice from the skipper.
For the sailors there are multiple starts, in general with the slower boats getting away first, but not having too many boats on each start. The Impalas in effect had their own start with 12 boats entered. The boats got away in a tight bunch with Caviar in the lead. With so many boats on the water, plus the usual traffic of tugs, towed barges, ferries, freighters and cruise ships, boats were soon testing all corners of the harbour to find a way out of the foul tide to Lye Yue Mun Pass four miles away and the open sea.
Impala One had been re-joined by Admiral Burrell, freshly back from a sports car rally about a thousand miles away in China, and he was soon proving that the shortest distance is not the fastest way to get through Lei Yue Mun, tacking on every shift in and out of the oil barges on the north side of the channel. Every now and again one of the boats on the southern side would get a good slant of wind and take off. First Rainbow, then Gnu shot ahead, only to fall into a hole.
Whipped on by Burrell’s newly acquired words of Sino-Gaelic encouragement, both sails were trimmed and played even going to windwards, and finally Impala One and Gnu got through Lei Yue Mun at the same time. Gnu, somewhat to leewards, fell into a bit of hole, as did the main fleet of Impalas in line astern of Gnu.
After a mile or so of two sail reaching past Cape Collinson we were able to get the spinnaker up. The sea was very lumpy; the previous days wind, what there was of it, had been mainly easterly, but today there had been a lot of north in the wind, so the waves were from all directions. We came across one Pandora which simply could not get the top and bottom of their large masthead spinnaker to set at the same as it was thrown from wave to wave. Rampage (Nelson 43) came up to windwards to pass us, went through a series of waves and completely shredded their kite.
While all this was going on the main Impala fleet was still getting out of the doldrums at Lei Yue Mun and before long Impala One’s lead was such that we could not make out which were the Impalas in the mass of boats behind.
We got to Cape D’Aguilar in good order, but were interfered with by an Etchells who had come up on the inside and did not seem to realize that the new course was west, and by delaying your gybe by more than a boat’s beam off the rocks is just throwing away time. A few calm words of advice from the whole crew soon appraised him of the situation, and we only lost 100 yards.
The trip up the Lamma Channel looks straightforward, but is usually a nightmare, this time was perhaps one step below that. The wind has a southerly element when you start so spinnakers are up, as you progress the wind comes forward, but frequently reverts to SE for short periods of time. To stay out of the shipping lane, the fleet is kept in close to the southern windless shore of HK Island. Despite this one very large container ship wore out his hooter – after about ten minutes of incessant hooting the sound changed and it dried up. So far as we could see the only boat remotely in his way was the Marine Dept patrol boat, placed there to sweep up any stray yachts.
During this leg the look of smug satisfaction was wiped from the faces of Impala One’s crew as the pursuing Impalas first became recognizable as Impalas then individual boats, then grinning crew as they closed the gap. The boats were spread out over half mile north to south as they hunted down the wind to leave each of the gate buoys to port.
After a lot of spinnaker work we finally got out from behind Green Island and reached under genny for the turning buoy to go up the harbour, relieved that the RO had not shortened. Impala One rounded with a handy lead over Rainbow and Boss Hogg. A long distance tacking duel then ensued, with parked ships and moving ferries providing additional chess moves as well as the wind shifts. Rainbow did much better early on and closed with Impala One, however Boss Hogg broke away briefly and tacked back to cross in front of Rainbow. As Rainbow and Boss Hogg were now out of sync Impala One’s dilemma was who to cover. However for the first time in the race we had several minutes of steady wind which allowed Impala One to get within ¾ miles of the finish , making it pointless for Rainbow or Boss Hogg to try a flier. The wind shifted slightly to the north letting Impala One make the last leg on one tack, crossing 2 mins 6 secs ahead of Boss Hogg, who had squeezed past Rainbow by 18 seconds. The last beat was not a repeat of the epic 2005 duel between Ling Yuan (now Caviar) and Impala One, where the boats were seldom two lengths apart, (until the last half mile when Impala One bluffed Ling Yuan into a hole ) but it was nonetheless a good tussle.
The other Impalas had not been so fortunate coming up Lamma channel and the next boat home was Caviar 23 minutes later, closely followed by Taxi, Also Can, Gnu, and Moll. Shikari, Madame K, Taurus and Elites were some way back. We were all pleased to see Elites who usually live at Hebe Haven, perhaps they could come to race in the harbour more often and close the gap with the other boats.
On handicap Impala One was 9th overall, with many of the top places going to FF15’s and 420’s who in general were able to respond quicker to the on-off winds than a 2 ½ ton boat.
Full results at: http://www.rhkyc.org.hk/ZokeAroundtheIslandRace.aspx
For those who might want to know Zoke is a brand of swimsuit.
When you jump in you get Zoke’d……………….never mind.