Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Champagne Conditions @ J/80 China Cup

J/80s sailing China Cup off Xiamen
(Xiamen, China)- The China Club Challenge Match, founded in 2005, sailed its 15th edition in the waters off Xiamen, China. The thirty-eight teams that sailed in the event, once again, were participants in the largest one-design keelboat regatta in all of Asia, sailing in a fleet of International J/80 one-design class sailboats.

Day One
On the first day, the fleet was treated to genuine “champagne sailing” conditions, with winds ranging from 8-15 knots throughout the day with relatively flat waters and a burning sun out all day long. This was a little bit unusual, as the tropical depression to the east of Taiwan moving towards Korea, should have sucked all the air out… but, no one was complaining. Conditions were so good that the regatta PRO decided to go for the extra race beyond the standard three, a move that was to prove invaluable later in the regatta.

The racing was close, especially on the start line with thirty-eight boats on the water. The on the water judging team of John Rountree, Wayne Boberg and Roger Purdy (all NZL) and Alistair Skinner (GBR) were kept busy, primarily with ‘early prods’ at the top mark, with some teams launching their bowsprit well in advance of any gennaker hoisting activity.

The one dark cloud of day one was a port starboard incident in race 3 that left the team from Xiamen City Career University (the innocent party) with a sizable hole close enough to the waterline to make their boat unsafe to sail for the balance of the regatta. With the RRS not permitting redress beyond that of their first two races in a 12-race regatta there was little the judges could do to ease their situation. Having said that, their positions in those first two races was not lining them up for qualification for the later match racing.

J/80s sailing China Cup off Xiamen, China
Day Two
Friday produced more of the same along with the second general recall of the event with the, now flooding, tide swept not just a few, but close to most, of the competitors into an OCS situation… too many to identify. However, such was the patience of the PRO that the Black Flag stayed firmly in the flag roll, but the rest of the regatta was firmly placed under “I” flag starts.

One or two teams were starting to stretch ahead on the leaderboard. Why? Principally, because those teams chose to start in clear air rather than join the big fight for the favored end of the line.

Day Three
By Saturday, the weather system off to the west was starting to make itself felt; not with strong winds but a light gradient breeze. As a result, that meant that later in the day, the racing had to be cancelled as the opposing, light sea breeze cancelled out the offshore, diminishing, gradient winds.

China's Pink Dolphins
As the boats were being towed back in to the hard, several boats noticed huge masses of fish boiling near the surface. It turns out, it was a small family group of Chinese White Dolphins (sometimes known as “Pink Dolphins”) that were forming their amazing “bubble nets” to herd the fish, and were then surging vertically up through them to feed.

To put things in perspective, estimates put their total population at about 10% of the iconic Giant Panda with less than 100 in the Taiwan Straits area and another 200 or so in the Pearl River Delta. Therefore, to spot them at all was a rare privilege. The fact that so much fuss is made of the Panda, and so little of these beautiful creatures, is indicative of how little attention is paid to our oceans.

Day Four
For the final day, looking out over the water didn’t produce a lot of hope as the fleet headed slowly out towards the racing area. So, it proved to be, with the boats drifting further and further down the, still ebbing, tide instead of staying close to the committee boat.

The PRO tried to get a race off, but with less than half the fleet crossing the starting line before the 4 minute cut off it was going to have a dramatic effect on the results with a “fleet +1” staring many teams in the face. Thankfully, the gradient breeze shut down completely, with those boats that had actually made the start with them virtually parking up only 1/3 of the way up the first beat and with no chance to make the 1st mark time limit. Three toots and an ‘N’ Flag brought proceedings to a halt.

Then, there was an agonizing wait of almost exactly 3 hours in a baking sun, as the clock ticked down towards the time limit at 1400 hours. The breeze finally kicked in at 1330 hrs, building to 10-12 kts, with little phasing and almost directly down tide. With little time left to re-set the course, there was fair amount of committee boat bias (starboard end), resulting in a couple of teams doing turns. It proved to be worth the wait, with one of the best races of the regatta to round things off for the enthusiastic sailors.

However, it isn’t just the racing with this regatta that makes the China Cup so popular. The social event side of it is simply epic! Three of the four evenings are well-organized with great food, wine & beer, capped off with the prize-giving for each day’s winners.

In the end, the three teams that emerged at the top of the leaderboard were, as follows; 1st- Shanghai Noah’s Sailing Club, 2nd- Xiamen Hai Yang Xue Yuan/Daren Sailing, and 3rd- Wan Hang Sailing. Add to Flipboard Magazine.