Hi Fi tar line honours. Foton: ROLEX/Carlo Borlenghi.
Neil Pryde’s Hi Fi takes line honours win in Rolex China Sea Race
March 23, 2008
An increase in wind strength off the West coast of the Philippines overnight gave the lead boats exactly what they needed to close in on the finish line off Grande Island at the entrance to Subic Bay, Philippines on Easter Sunday. Neil Pryde’s Wellbourn 52 Hi Fi crossed the finish line just before noon local time with an elapsed time of 71 hrs 35mins 42 secs.
Hi Fi held off Fortis Mandrake, 20 miles behind, which had a shot at the overall corrected win. In the end, Mandrake finished at 1438hrs today, missing the win by a mere 13 minutes.
That leaves only a few suspects who could upset Hi Fi for the overall corrected win if the wind in fact holds, the first of which, Full Metal Jacket, would need to cross at 1819hrs tonight. Others include Subic Centennial, Australian Maid, and Moonblue II, which are due in by 2000hrs tonight.
Dockside at the Subic Bay Yacht Club, skipper Neil Pryde was presented with a Rolex Yacht-Master timepiece by John de Luna from Rolex Philippines for Hi Fi’s line honours win.
Hi Fi completed the course with an average speed of 7.6 knots over the 565-nautical mile course from Hong Kong to the Philippines. Not a bad speed considering the boat “parked up” yesterday morning for five hours with no wind at all. A long, hot wait for a boat that could be excused for wondering then if its’ game plan had gone wrong.
Pryde said, “We had planned to always go the south side of the rhumb line, we figured we’d get the shift, which we did, but we didn’t plan on the big park up yesterday when Mandrake went inshore and gained about ten miles on us. We went from 30 miles ahead to only 13 miles (in one sked). Mandrake had their strategy, and we stuck to our game plan, and in the end that’s what yacht racing is all about.”
The Rolex China Sea Race line honours win was a first for Pryde, who has previously won the race before on overall corrected time. Hi Fi was launched in January and the crew had only competed in the Royal Langkawi and Singapore Straits regattas. This was the first offshore test, which was an impressive showing. Pryde commented, “We had a lot more time to settle down and get organized. Most of the races we had done were short, round the cans. This time we’ve been on the boat a long time, we had a chance to really sort things out. We had an excellent crew on the boat, some very good technicians, who were able to put the boat together.”
Pryde, an internationally known sail maker whose specialty and success has been as a designer and manufacturer of windsurfers, is a natural tinkerer, known to always be tweaking his boats to make them faster. Hi Fi is a completely new boat, though it was born from the ashes of a previous boat he owned.
Pryde described the process: “We couldn’t sell the boat for a realistic price, so I figured out that the residual value in hardware, equipment, electronics, and everything else, was worth more than I could get for it second-hand. We decided to take a chain saw to it, literally cut it up and salvage all the equipment out of it and start all over again.”
“We got Hugh Welbourn in the UK to design the hull, fin, keel, rudder. Hugh’s a non-conformist designer anyway, he pushes the edges, so when you give him a freehand to come up with a pretty radical boat, he did that. The boat is pretty radical! It’s a totally new hull, keel and rudder. The front part of the deck is the old deck, but the aft end is totally new. It’s a meter narrower in the middle and a lot, lot wider in the back, so it’s like a wedge. So it’s a very different boat from a Farr one-design.
Talking about the innovative hull shape, Pryde said, “We’ve got hard chines which control the water flow over the side of the boat, making it theoretically drier. It’s got very big flare in the aft sections of the boat, which means you can get the crew a lot further outboard, so you can get a lot of leverage. It’s actually a very efficient setup.it looks a little radical, but it’s actually very practical.”
Meanwhile in IRC Racing A, Chris Meads’ Corby 43 Full Metal Jacket headed inshore where there was breeze as well, sailing at seven knots with 18 miles to the finish; further offshore Sam Chan’s TP52 Ffreefire was making the same speed with 25 miles to finish. It remains to be seen if one tactic will trump the other and if the wind holds for anyone.
In IRC Racing B, Australian Maid improved their position overnight and leads their division with 27 miles to go and an ETA of 1900hrs. IRC Premier Cruising leader, Moonblue 2, is due in at 2000hrs and has 32nm to go. Shahtoosh and Jaywalker are another 20nm further back followed by Imagine, Dream, Imagine, Walawala and Stella.
Approximately 190nm behind the leader, in the HKPN Division, James Kong’s Bavaria 39 Harmony was sailing at 6.5 knots with an ETA of midnight on Monday (March 24), followed by Guy Dickinson’s Larabella. Leon Chan/James Lau’s Tipsy Frenz has retired and is due to arrive in Subic Bay on Monday