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Blue Water Classic: The Rolex China Sea Race 2024

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One of the leading blue-water events on the Asian yachting calendar, the Rolex China Sea Race 2024, the latest edition of a trans-ocean yachting dash between Hong Kong and the Philippines held almost every other year since 1962, took place in late March and early April.

Organised by the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club and sponsored by the Swiss watchmaking brand Rolex, which has a long and illustrious History of support for yachting events and endeavours around the world at the highest level, this year’s race took comPetitors on a 565nm (almost 1,050km) voyage that began at the start line off Kellett Island in Victoria Harbour and ended at the Philippine port of Olongapo in Subic Bay.

This year’s entries for the Category 1 Offshore event comprised 191 comPetitors manning 21 boats, including vessels from the Philippines, mainland China, Korea and Taiwan as well as Hong Kong, all of which got off to a clean start at 11.20am on March 27, helped by a north-easterly breeze. After an early tussle for the lead, the first vessel through the narrow Lei Yue Mun Gap was the Reichel/Pugh 75 Standard Insurance Centennial V, skippered by two-times race-winner Ernesto Echauz, followed by a pair of Transpac 52s – Nie Hua’s Happy Go, skippered by Jono Rankine, and Emerson Villeña’s Standard Insurance Centennial 3. Indeed, it were vessels in the IRC Racer 0 division that served as the pace-setters on the entire route across the South China Sea, taking best advantage of the stronger breezes and their waterline length in the earlier stages before the winds began to soften.

Eventually, it was Nie’s Happy Go that crossed the line in Subic Bay just after 5.20am on March 30, taking line honours as well as the IRC overall win by crossing the long stretch of ocean in a corrected time of three days 20 hours 20 minutes and 53 seconds. Skippered by YY Yan, the mainland Chinese entry Seawolf took IRC overall and IRC Racer 0 second place, while Villeña’s Standard Insurance Centennial V in third position in both the overall and IRC Racer 0 categories, crossing the line a mere five minutes behind the winner.

Lifting both the China Sea and Sunday Telegraph trophies at the prize-giving ceremony in Subic Bay Yacht Club – not to forget a highly prized pair of Rolex timepieces – a delighted Nie said, “We made a lot of preparations ahead of the race but getting line honours and the IRC overall title are completely out of my expectations! … I’m absolutely thrilled and so thankful. We had a great team and though we had some language barriers, we operated well, so a big thank you to the team!”  

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