Report by Lindsay Lions, RHKYC
Photos © Guy Nowell/ RHKYC
With typhoon Krosa meandering east to west below the coast of China and threatening to disrupt the sailing programme for the worlds, Race Officer Jerry Rollin wasted no time today in informing competitors that his intention was to try and fit in two races if at all possible, as an insurance against the possible postponement of tomorrow's racing in the event of a T3 being raised. The Nationals were designed to acclimatise overseas sailors to Lamma conditions, however after four days of racing with a pleasant easterly and barely any swell, today's conditions reflected the imminent typhoon giving a NNE breeze and a 3m swell which set a completely different test for sailors and boats.
Having learned lessons from the Nationals, the 51-strong fleet was circumspect at the start of Race 1 and no recalls were required. A sign of a well laid course is whether the boats split evenly up the left and right and, in spite of the Hong Kong mantra 'go left at Lamma' the fleet was pretty much split 50/50 for the first leg, El Toro taking 15 minutes to round, ahead of Foof and Aussie Falcon. At the end of the first spinnaker run, Steve Goacher had moved up into third behind Alderson and Vials ahead of a procession of 'Fifteens and these places stayed static for another lap until Foof moved into the lead with Nick and Janet Jerwood moving up into fourth.
The conditions took their toll with one dismasting, one broken spinnaker pole, one broken vang and a MOB resulting in only 46 boats making the start line for race 2. With conditions picking up, together with four damaged boats, Vamoose decided to call it a day in order to preserve the 50 year-old timber classic for the remainder of the regatta.
Rollins looked at the deteriorating conditions and gave the remaining fleet a quick restart in 22kts gusting to 25 – once again, they recorded a clean start and racing was underway.This time it was David Lavery on Afloat.ie who took the early lead to the top mark, followed by El Toro and Foof. Lavery maintained his advantage on the downwind leg, only to be passed by El Toro and Foof at the next windward mark. By the end of the second lap, Foof led through the gate with El Toro and Afloat.ie in her wake, with Alan Bax and the Jerwoods battling it out behind with the final results showing Bax finishing fourth, 20 seconds ahead of Ineffable.
The gap between the top ten boats is averaging 3 minutes over a 75 minute race, so this is shaping up to be an extremely competitive series, with Graham Vials starting a perfect defence of his title.
Having lost Day 2 to typhoon Krosa, the race management team was on station early today, with a target of two races in order to get back on track for a Thursday finish. Krosa left a confused sea and some dreach weather in its wake, with a shifty 10 to 14kt breeze which tracked from 040 to 070 degrees in the space of 20 minutes. Having set the line in his customary spot, Race Officer Jerry Rollin was forced to move it forward as a ship was anchored on the port lay line, however both committee boat and pin end managed to reset before the scheduled display of the attention signal at 1155hrs.
The first attempt at a start featured a mass of 'Fifteens going OCS, resulting in a black flag restart. This time all boats were clear and El Toro charged into the lead, ahead of Ineffable and Steve Goacher, with Graham Vials rounding the windward mark in fourth place. Talking after the race, Vials noted that "conditions were tricky – there was a big swell with a bit of time and a shifty breeze" but that didn't prevent him drawing up to the front by the leeward mark rounding to set up a private battle with the Jerwoods, which was settled in favour of Ineffable. Meanwhile Always Fforever was holed in a port/ starboard with Aussie Falcon, forcing her to retire from the day's racing. RHKYC boatyard staff are hard at work trying to repair the damage in time for tomorrow's racing.
With the wind tracking round another 20 degrees, the line was set again for Race 4, with Rollin looking to get one race ahead of the schedule and take the pressure off for the remaining three days of racing. Unhappy with the line, the RO AP'd just before the start and after moving for the pin end, restarted the sequence. Once again the fleet struggled with the combination of tide and swell and once again a general recall was signaled.
After an increase in line length, another attempt at a start with the black flag displayed at the preparation signal – a clutch of boats was again over towards the centre of the line with two being identified and scored BFD. The lucky ones made it to the next restart, but it was a case of déjà vu, yet another general recall and five more boats scored BFD. Finally, at the fourth time of asking, the depleted fleet made a clean start, with Hong Kong-ers Cosmas Grelon and Rory Godman making it to the windward mark in first place. By the leeward mark, Foof had taken up its customary position at the front of the fleet, closely followed by Steve Goacher, with Noisy Forefather in third. On the same leg, My Fair Lady was holed in a port/ starboard with the appropriately named Kerfuffle, but chose to carry on racing with a sizeable hole in her hull – surprisingly, she managed to finish ahead of three other boats scoring 39 in the process.
The series is shaping up to be a keen contest between Vials, Jerwood, Goacher and Alan Bax, with Vials sitting pretty on a 7 point cushion after scoring a 2-1 today. The Jerwoods are on 12 after a 1-2 and Goacher is on 20. Top Hong Kong competitor is Simon Pickering in 15th on Ffact or Ffiction, with 18 year old Cosmas Grelon just one point behind in 16th.
Having pushed racing to the point where he was the maximum permissible one race ahead, the Worlds RO, Jerry Rollin, was able to relax a little today with the requirement for one race, in a target time of 120 minutes. After yesterday's grizzly conditions, 'overcast grey' seemed like a distinct improvement, accompanied by 15 to 20kts of appreciably cooler north easterly breeze and the odd patch of blue sky. Race management may have felt slightly redundant today, as the fleet posted an 'all clear' start at the first time of asking, with El Toro setting the early pace, reaching the windward mark in just over 20 minutes, ahead of Steve Goacher, The Wife's Ffault and Foof.
An 11 minute downwind leg saw Foof sneak into third, with Alan Bax taking up fifth position, but 20 minutes later, the Ineffable's rounded in fifth place, holding Betty in sixth. Given the longer target time, the pin boat weighed anchor and motored to the windward end of the course to lay a finish line, allowing the team to view some of the man overboard and emergency rigging procedures practiced by the 'Fifteens, including one crew going up the mast after the main halyard – no mean feat in the washing machine conditions of the Lamma patch. With the sun breaking through, the breeze started to lighten and five minutes inside the target time El Toro coasted home at the top of the finish board, a mere 16 seconds ahead of Goacher, with Matthew Owen / Andrew Reed a minute behind. Betty and Foof had a fierce battle to the finish, with Betty making fourth by the narrowest of margins, relegating Graham Vials to an unaccustomed (but discardable) fifth.
Nick and Janet Jerwood have shown remarkable consistency in both the Nationals and the Worlds and posted a sixth today, however after five races, with El Toro able to discard their BFD score, the overall standing show Vials in first on 5 points, ahead of El Toro and Ineffable on 12 apiece. With two races remaining, the 19th International Flying Fifteen World Championship is still anyone's for the taking. Top Hong Kong boat is currently Noisy Forefather, helmed by Cosmas Grelon, in 18th overall with Ffact or Ffiction in 21st and Uffa Fox Ache in 24th.
The 19th International Flying Fifteen Worlds has thrown every conceivable weather combination at competitors, and today it was time to try some light air sailing. The T flag was displayed on shore, indicating that all competitors would be towed across the Lamma TSS and RO Jerry Rollin was happy to raise the AP at the start line in order to ensure that everyone had time to prepare. That also gave him time to reconsider the start line position, which was pushing the windward mark right out to the limit of Hong Kong waters, by retreating 200m further downwind. Early indications were that a 1.15nm beat would be ample to give the sailors a race of around two hours, however the wind was gradually shifting round to the east, requiring the pin boat to be re-anchored and by the time the start gun was fired, although the fleet got a clean start, Rollin noted the dying breeze, coupled with another wind shift and raised the N flag to abandon the race and bring everyone back to the start area.
The pin boat was once again relocated, and with the breeze filling in to 5kts, the RO tried to get race 6 underway again, however just before the start gun, another AP #2 was displayed, as race management waited for a wind shift to settle. The AP was removed, only to be re-hoisted 4 minutes later and the pin boat anchor was lifted once again with all boats standing by waiting for the new breeze to fill in. Fill in it did, 50 degrees further east than when the first attempt at a start was made, however this time the forecast replenishment of the northeast monsoon held steady at 8 to 10 knots and the RO was able to reset the line to his satisfaction. Perhaps impatient to get sailing after sitting around for so long, the bulk of the fleet was over early, earning a general recall and a black flag re-start. This time, everyone got it right, including the breeze, and the fleet were all clear nearly two hours later than scheduled.
Cosmas Grelon got a flyer of a start for Hong Kong on Noisy Forefather, reaching the windward mark first, ahead of Pharos Financial Group and the rest of the fleet before a local fishing vessel managed to hook the mark. With the mark returned to its rightful owners, the mark layers had 45 seconds to get it into place before the fleet rounded the leeward gate. By the time they did, Graham Vials had taken up the head of the fleet, ahead of Greg Wells on Betty and Ashley Smith on PHAROS Financial Group and the Jerwoods on Ineffable and with the wind holding steady, Foof crossed the finish line in first place – their fourth of the regatta – to secure their defence of their World Title with a race in hand.
On the dock afterwards, Vials said "it was surprisingly good racing – I was a bit concerned that with the lighter breeze we might get caught by a wind shift, but it all went to plan. We're looking forward to the curry buffet tonight, and a day off tomorrow!"
Ineffable maintains their position in second place, six points ahead of Steve Goacher and Phil Evans on 4021. El Toro has dropped to fourth overall after a disappointing 9th today, with Betty in fifth on equal points with Alan Bax and Chris Hewkin on 3998. Top Hong Kong boat is Noisy Forefather with Cosmas Grelon and Rory Godman in 17th overall, with Ffact or Ffiction in 21st and Uffa Fox Ache in 24th.
With first place already decided, 50 boats turned up at the start line for the seventh and final race of the Worlds. It's no exaggeration to say that the weather and sea state has been different on every day of this regatta and today was just perfect – sunny, 15kts, a light swell... Race management was not in for an easy day though, with two ships anchored on the preferred layline. Having moved closer inshore to allow adequate leg length without encroaching into China waters, the line was laid for an axis slightly to the right of the wind, to balance the course against the 'left at Lamma' effect. Everything was going to plan until two minutes into the start sequence, when the AP had to be raised to allow for a commercial ship crossing the course on the port layline. Just as thoughts were turning to getting into the start sequence again, a tanker anchored just upwind of the start line, forcing the team to up sticks and move back further offshore and reset the course.
Finally, 50 minutes behind schedule, the start gun was fired for the last race of the 19th International Flying Fifteen World Championships and the fleet was away with a clean start. Nick and Janet Jerwood, already assured of second overall for Ineffable, were out for glory and led from the front to take their second first of the series, finishing on a nett 15 points two minutes ahead of Matthew Owen and Andrew Reed on The Wife's Ffault – their best placing of the series. El Toro was only seconds behind in third, cementing third place overall for the Australian duo of Grant Alderson and Dean McAullay.
The Jerwoods seemed happy with their overall performance and unperturbed by the changeable weather, with Nick saying "conditions are probably the best I've ever sailed in at a (Worlds) regatta".
More photos of this Regatta are available in the Gallery