The Lipton Trophy – Hong Kong Harbour Saturday 19th November
This is a pursuit race around marks in the harbour in which the boats first sail three triangles of about 1 ½ miles per leg, then between windward/leeward marks about a mile apart until the target finish time of 16.30 is reached; the race is finished when the leading boat next reaches the leeward mark. Starts are staggered from 14.00 hours when the Pandoras set off, with starts every two minutes. Ruffians 14.08; Sonatas 14.12 Impalas go off at 14.22; SB3s 14.30; Etchells and j80’s 14.32, all the way up to IRC 1.51 (yes there are such boats !) at 15.16
It’s a finely tuned system designed to have all fifty-five entrants crossing the finishing line overlapped. As you will see it does not always work out that way.
Your roving reporter was fortunate enough to find himself at the helm of Impala One. Seems the crew have short memories and a forgiving nature.
Making a reasonable start and using time tested tactics of tacking on headers and staying in the favourable tide, halfway up the first beat Impala One was leading the Impala pack, closely followed by Rainbow and Boss Hogg. By the first mark the FF15 stragglers had been snared. In wind which was swinging over 20 deg each way Impala One drew out a substantial lead over the Impala fleet and one by one reeled in the boats ahead. Second time at the leeward mark we were leading the whole fleet, however the chasing Etchells were in sight. Halfway up the beat, with the Etchells now only 300 yards astern, we noticed that a really large yacht with a mast that seemed to be at least 300 metres tall, was making very slow progress over the last 200 metres to the mark. We were pointing almost at the mark, making about 4 knots, on the wind, followed by the fleet all making good progress. This is point at which hindsight tells us we should have tacked left of the hole the big boat was in, since experience in that part of the harbour tells you that the new wind comes in from the left side 7 out of ten times. Of course we did not. About 150 metres from the mark we fell into the mother of all holes.
Successively all 55 boats were in it. However the ones at the back caught up with those in front and the handicapper’s dream of having all boats finishing overlapped was achieved, except it wasn’t the finish by a long way – there was still over an hour left on the clock.
After about ten minutes of nothing moving, except for the tide turning and taking the fleet away from the mark, a light zephyr appeared from the left. One by one boats started to get steerage and get on a close fetch for the mark. Impala One and the few boats near looked on as they drifted, helpless spectators. Actually drift is too strong a word as it implies some sort of movement, whereas we were completely and totally stopped.
About 30 boats had gone around the mark and hoisted spinnakers before we got any wind at all, and by the time we reached the mark the rest of the fleet had got around before us. One of our crew, with acute powers of observation, reported that we were last.
There were two realistic options at this point: break out the rum and coke or stay calm and carry on. I might mention at this point that Impala One was second overall in this race last year, and crew had let it be known that they regarded that as a mere stepping stone to improved performance.
The Impala crew then did what they do best (after rum and cokes that is); sails were trimmed to perfection, spinnakers dropped and doused only when the bows already overlapped the mark, tacks faultless, shifts spotted. Of course there was no hope of catching the faster classes, but there was the whole Impala fleet in front plus all the FF15’s, Pandoras and Ruffians etc. One by one they were reeled in, until only Rainbow Catcher, Moll, Taxi and Boss Hogg were in front.
On the penultimate beat, Big Dave came up with the masterstroke – stay right, everyone else is going left due the recent history of being to the right of the mark and we can’t make up the distance we need following in their wake. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, we held right, ran into a very nice header, flipped to port and cleaned up everyone except Rainbow, disposing of most the slower classes on the way, making it second Impala across the line, 1:48 behind Rainbow and a minute in front of Moll.
Full results are at: http://www.rhkyc.org.hk/LiptonTrophyPursuitRace.aspx