Inaugural St. James’s Place China Coastal Race

WORDS: VIVIAN NGAN | PHOTO: PIETRO CIANI BASSETTI


"I thought the race was both interesting and challenging. Long enough to be a bit of an endurance test, but with short enough legs that there was work to be done on the boat at all times” said Nick Southward who helmed Whiskey Jack in the inaugural St. James’s Place China Coastal Race, a Category 3 offshore race which was held in place of the biennial Hong Kong to Hainan Race.


It was a beautiful day at Shek O Rock with blue skies and an easterly breeze of 16 to 20kts on 16 October at the start line of St. James’s Place China Coastal Race. Under the influence of the north east monsoon, the sea was quite rough with a swell of up to 3m leftover from the passing Typhoon days prior to the race. The horn sounded at 1100hrs and the three competing yachts, Ambush, Jinn and Whiskey Jack, set off on the 100nm racecourse which would see them sail up to Ping Chau, Round Island, Shek Ngau Chau, then heading down to pass Po Toi and round Tau Lo Chau at south of Lantau Island before finishing at TCS 2 near Tung Lung Chau.


“The sea and wind were relatively strong at the start with gusts nearing 26kts, swell was large but the waves were well spaced out so not too difficult to sail, we started with the J3 and one reef in the main to keep the boat as balanced as possible. When conditions eased a bit we quickly peeled back to J2 and shook the reef off.” said Nicolas Cohen-Addad, skipper of Jinn.


Joachim Isler, co-skipper of Ambush, mentioned the downwind section of the course was exciting when they maneuvered through the southern islands under spinnaker. “The run from Mirs Bay to the Soko’s was exhilarating once we managed to get the kite up. We had a top speed of 20 kts – the boat was flying. The beat back to the finish was tough, cold and long. At 100 nm the race was perfect in length – perhaps it could have even been a little bit longer.”


The three participating yachts are not new to long distance racing. Mills 41 Ambush co-owned by Joachim Isler and Andrew Taylor has a long offshore racing history and has participated in all the offshore races organised by the Club in recent years. Ambush took the IRC Overall 1st place in 2018 Hong Kong to Hainan Race and won IRC Race 1 division

1st place in both 2017 and 2019 Hong Kong to Vietnam Race.


Fresh from lifting the trophy in St. James’s Place China Coast Regatta in IRC Racer 3 division the preceding weekend, Nick Southward’s J-109 Whiskey Jack has also previously joined two Rolex China Sea Races, taking 2nd in IRC 2 Division in 2012 and 3rd in IRC 2 Division in 2016 as a double-handed entry, along with placing 1st in IRC 2 Division in the

2017 Hong Kong to Vietnam Race.


By comparison, Nicolas Cohen-Addad’s J-122 Jinn has a relatively shorter history in offshore sailing in Hong Kong, however they successfully took the win in IRC Racer 2 in their first attempt in the Hong Kong to Vietnam Race in 2019.


Joachim Isler and Andrew Taylor’s Ambush reached the finish at TCS 2 in the early hours of Saturday morning at 01h24m23s to take line honours for the race. “We enjoyed the race very much indeed. The conditions were tough and surprisingly varied, with winds between 5-25 kts from North to South East. In all my years in Hong Kong I have never sailed around Ping Chau, so it was quite a special experience.”


Jinn reached the finishing area 94m32s after Ambush, with a corrected elapsed time of 17h29m3s, taking out 1st place overall for the St. James’s Place China Coastal Race. Nicolas Cohen-Addad described it as a tight race “The three boats were in sight of each other for most of the day time. We were consistently trailing Ambush, the spread increased slightly at night but overall the three boats finished in 1 to 1.5 hours of each others on elapsed time.”


Whiskey Jack finished second on corrected time, just days after their successful IRC Racer 3 win in the St James’s Place China Coast Regatta. Nick Southward summed up the journey: “We experienced a range of conditions and wind angles during the race. This made it interesting and at times challenging. Everything from trying to keep the

boat moving in light airs to controlling the boat under spinnaker with the wind gusting to 30 kts.”


All three boats highly recommended this race to other sailors, Nicolas Cohen-Addad saying that it puts both crew and equipment to a real test: “aside for giving the opportunity to sail along the beautiful coastline of Hong Kong, it also requires some decent navigation specially at night around the islands. The HK waters limitation added a bit of spice nearing Po Toi. Although not an offshore race, it gives a good taste of what night sailing is and presents a good opportunity to test the relevant equipment. It is a good endurance test for both the crew and the boat.”


Joachim Isler also echoed Cohen-Addas’s sentiment adding this race was perfect for less experienced boats and crews to gather experience needed for offshore races, “ All in all the race was most enjoyable and accessible to most big boats due to the simple safety requirements and no need to clear immigration. With all these advantages I would have thought more boats would have participated in the race. Despite the Friday start and needing to take time off work, I’d very much encourage offshore newbie’s to participate in the next race. I do very much hope that the club can schedule two to three more of races per year.”


A big thank you must also go to our event Sponsors St. James’s Place and Peroni for their continued support of the Club.


This article appears in the December 2020 issue of Ahoy!