Supported by the Philippines Department of Tourism and proving ‘it’s more fun in the Philippines!’, 25 boats will gather on the start line in Victoria Harbour for the 19th edition of the San Fernando Race, which gets underway on Wednesday 27 March.
San Fernando Race 2011
This 480nm Category 1 offshore race attracts a sector of the sailing population committed to blue water offshore racing, with Hong Kong sailors being joined by their peers from Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, Norway and Holland, among many other countries, making it a truly cosmopolitan event.
In the grand prix division, Geoff Hill’s Maxi, Antipodes, is looking for Line Honours, together with the Tan/Echauz campaigned TP52, Centenniel III, from the Philippines and, subject to repair of a broken boom, Jonathan Mahoney’s Humphreys 42 Zanzibar coming up from Singapore and looking for a repeat of her IRC Overall triumph in last year’s Rolex China Sea Race.
In Racing Division 1, the growing popularity of 40 foot racers is in evidence, with the experienced offshore crew on board the Burns/Kinmonth owned Mills 40, EFG Bank Mandrake, joined by Simon Powell’s A40, Sell Side Dream, and Andy Lam’s X41, Orient Express. Fred Kinmonth has not missed the San Fernando or China Sea Race for the past 10 years, extolling them as blue water classics.
Xena, Peter Forsythe's brand new X-55. San Fernando Race 09
These three are joined by first timers Anteros 36, Krampus (Niccolo Manno) and Ker 40, Peninsula Signal 8 (Jacobs/ Pender/ McWilliam) which have both performed well inshore in home waters. Having won her first ever offshore race when she lifted the trophy for IRC Overall in the 2009 San Fernando Race, pocket rocket Red Kite II (A35) has her sights set high in Racing Division 3, with owner Anthony Root noting that 'only two boats in history have won the SFR twice in a row. Ffreefire and Red Kite II. We hope to make new history this year.' Root acknowledged that this could be a major challenge, 'particularly in the last 75 miles when the race is typically won or lost'. The Archambault is joined by J109 Whiskey Jack (Nick Southward) and Tonny Chung’s Sydney 36 Talkinghead, both of which have previous offshore race experience.
Red Kite II heading for the Philippines (and all the prizes) San Fernando Race 2009.
Another sign of the times is the growth of the IRC Premier Cruising Division, which represents the largest in the 2013 race with six competitors. Only Clove Hitch (Alex Yu) and Moonblue 2 (Pete Churchouse) have been raced offshore before, although the skippers and crew on the other entries have plenty of personal ‘previous’ on this and other races across the South China Sea. With 13 San Fernando Races behind him, almost all raced with a combination of his current crew, Churchouse names his high points as 'Spinnaker runs under a full moon in modest breeze and flat seas and a delicious rum calamansi in the bar on arrival. Nowhere else in the world does this.....'
The close-knit ‘Tipsy’ syndicate has seven China Sea crossings under its collective belt and is now on its fourth boat, Tipsy Easy, which replaces her predecessor Tipsy Frenz, lost on the Hong Kong to Taiwan Race. She is joined by Peter Cremers’ new Warwick 75, Shahtoosh, XC50, Explorer (Anthony Day) and Sense 50, Sea Monkey (Emmanuel Pitsilis) to make up a very comfortable division.
Wicked. San Fernando Race 09
A sizeable contingent of the entry list satisfies the requirements for IRC Cruising division, with a mix of first timers and returnees. While Kevin Greene’s Dearg Doom has voiced concerns about pairing the wine list with brought and caught food, Richard van den Berg on Kei Lun has imported a number of Dutch and Norwegian sailors and has vowed to try and avoid the infamous ‘holes’, which appear as boats close in on the Philippine coastline and which have spoiled many a race which looked to be ‘in the bag’.
The fleet is rounded out with three non-IRC boats, which will race under Hong Kong Performance Handicap (HKPN). Diamond Queen (Charles Lam) is no stranger to the China Sea, but it will be the inaugural crossing for Allegro (Thomas Wiesinger) and Wonderwall (David Harari). Getting a boat up to Category 1 standard is a major effort and Wiesinger admits, 'we bought the boat around 14 days ago so we are working hard to get the boat ready. If we make it to the start line, that's already a major achievement!'
Proving that there are still new sailors getting onto blue water racing, Harari is itching to take the eight month old Oceanis offshore, saying he was anticipating 'the risk, the challenge, being out in the ocean for the first time in my life'. Harari has brought in two experienced offshore sailors from Canada to bolster his regular crew, and it is hoped that Wonderwall’s 2013 San Fernando Race represents the start of a long love affair with offshore racing.
Walawala, heading for "fun in the sun". San Fernando Race 09