24 March 2016

Off to Subic Bay: Centennial sets pace early in Rolex China Sea Race

HONG KONG – Thirty-three yachts, from small boats manned by couples to bigger catamarans navigated by as many as 22 sailed into the open seas yesterday in a misty, drizzling afternoon at the start of the 565 nautical mile Rolex China Sea Race to the imaginary finish line off the shores of Subic Bay.

The boats, 26 of them from Hong Kong and seven from other nationalities, including Filipino-owned Standard Insurance-Centennial, went to the Hong Kong Harbor at 12 noon to take their positions for the 1 p.m. starting gun, but the race was delayed several times as they waited for the winds.

When the winds finally blew outward, Standard Insurance-Centennial got the headstart, its decision to take the shoreline path giving it an initial lead of at least one kilometer heading to the open seas.

The race for line honors becomes anybody’s game, at least for the bigger yachts, as they head for the turbulent waters off Hong Kong. They were to navigate throughout the night and day on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday.

The race would be more technical and tactical as computer-equipped boats veer from the straight path from Hong Kong to Subic by heading to the upward wind several miles ahead to gather speed heading to the finish line.

The boats are expected to encounter rough sailing as they enter Philippine territory by Good Friday and Black Saturday but the bigger multi-hulls and catamarans manned by a maximum crew of 22 gunning for line honors are expected to gain the advantage and hit land ahead of the smaller ones by early Black Saturday morning.

The fastest regardless of the boat category wins the Rolex CSR line honors.

The smaller, lighter boats, with lighter masts and fewer crew members, will be gunning for top honors in the equally prestigious Rolex CSR handicap race category based on their corrected time.

Each boat is assigned a handicap based on its size and other factors, which will be used to determine the corrected time.

Jude Echauz, a former car rally driver who has been competing in the CSR for 20 years, is owner and skipper of Standard Insurance-Centennial, which won the 1998 Rolex CSR handicap race as Subic Centennial and the 2008 race under its new name as Standard Insurance-Centennial.

Echauz is again at the helm of the Standard Insurance-Centennial with a 17-man all-Filipino crew, majority of them members of the national team.

For over 10 years, the 52-footer has been the only Filipino entry in the Rolex CSR, which is traditionally dominated by entries from the Royal Hong Kong Club and its three other clubs in the former Crown Colony.

Foreign teams in this year’s race include those from Japan, Australia, Russia, China and Singapore.

A member club from China, which has two entries this year, had indicated that boat construction is going at a fast pace in the Mainland and would expect more than half of the entries of the Rolex China Sea Race in the future to come from China.

Executives from Rolex, which has been the sponsor of Asia’s longest sea race since 1972, will be on hand to meet the winners and participants of the race on Saturday and Sunday. (Gerry Carpio, The Philippine Star)

[1] Thirty-three yachts sail off into the open seas in a misty, drizzling afternoon at the start of the 565 nautical mile Rolex China Sea Race to Subic Bay.

[2] Philippine bet Standard Insurance Centennial, with Jun Echaus at the helm, ahead of the pack.

[3] A Lion Dance for good luck was performed at the pontoon of the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club before the race began.

(all photos from the Rolex China Sea Race Facebook page)