Saturday, October 15, 2011

Team Hudson Wins J/80 China Match Race

J/80 one-design sailboat- sailing China Cup(Xiamen, China)- The China Club Challenge Match is the premier Chinese sailing event for Chinese sailors, with 34 teams from around this country of 1.0+ billion people battling it out for the right to challenge the 2010 trophy holder. It is run on the waters off Xiamen in Fujian Province, renowned for serving up good breezes every day, like clockwork, at this time of year.

The event is open to all sailors in China - including foreigners who live and work in the country.  The China Club Challenge has earned a reputation in recent years for good winds, tight courses, fair, unbiased umpiring and rulings, and good tight racing in the ‘proper’ spirit of sailing.  Such is the good-natured spirit of the event that even defeated teams crossing the line a few boat lengths behind the victors have been seen spontaneously raising their hands in applause for the victor!

J/80 one-design sailboat- fleet racing off Xiamen, ChinaThe regatta starts with a "fleet racing" format to setup the elimination ladder for the match races.  It was expected that the fleet racing element of the event would sort out the men from the boys. The breeze was providing a steady 20kts, and with some sailors on the J/80s for the first time it proved so, with some of the fleet opting to avoid the spinnaker. But with the committee boat recording 30+ kts in the gusts perhaps this wasn’t surprising.  Spin outs were very much in evidence, with some skippers failing to keep their boats under the rig, providing some dramatic viewing for those on the spectator boats.

A busy time was had by the on-the-water judges who then were back sitting behind the table in the protest room for much of the evening, especially on day 1 when they left the venue at 2250h. Altogether around a dozen protests were lodged, but it could easily have been more as the racing was close.  Having said that, boat damage and breakdowns were remarkably light considering the conditions, and the J/80s lent by Hudson Yachts proved to be more than up to the task-- only two requests for redress due to gear failure were lodged in the entire fleet racing section of the regatta.  After the initial three days of racing, with 14 races run in total, the fleet was whittled down from 34 to 16 for the match-racing portion of the event.

J/80 one-design sailboat- sailing with women's Chinese sailing teamThe event then shifted gear into the match racing phase with the round of 16 requiring 24 races in one day. Sounds incredible, but that is what the race management team managed to squeeze out on day four.  Race Officers Russ Parker and Tony Liu, along with umpires Al, Ewan, Peter and Tim certainly earned their stripes on this day, with all of them on the water for every race.

The fleet were gradually whittled down to four semi-finalists from all over China - SANYA, SHENZHEN, IRONROCK of Xiamen (the hosts for the event) and SHANGHAI. Two matches later, SEAWOLF from Longcheer Yacht Club in Shenzhen emerged the winners of the China Club Cup Challengers Trophy, earning the right to sail against the defenders on the final day of the event.

For the Match Race Finals, it was a bit of a David and Goliath event, with the defender Team HUDSON (the J-80 builder and skippered by Jim Johnstone) competing against the SEAWOLF team from Shenzhen.  Unfortunately for Shenzen's SEAWOLF Team, the result wasn’t the same as the Biblical encounter, with Team HUDSON successfully defending their trophy, although the SEAWOLF Team from the south were hardly embarrassed by the 4-1 score line and never finished a race more than eight boat lengths down on the winners.

J/80 China Cup Match Race Challenge sailing teamsWhat an event! There were 34 teams (seen here at right), 72 races, 12 protests, too many blue, yellow and green flags to count (along with a couple of reds and blacks thrown in for good measure), a worthy winner in the challenger series and a fair and penalty free challenger/defender series. And just like Queen Victoria was told all those years ago during the original "Round Island Race" for that 100 Guinea Cup (aka today's America's Cup)– "there was no second."  No matter, it was clear the enthusiasm and the popularity of the event continues to grow significantly across China with next year promising to be an even bigger event!  Many "Thanks" must go to Hudson Wang, Hudson Yachts and those sponsors that supported this year's China Challenge Cup.