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The Hong Kong Ruffian Fleet goes from Strength to Strength

Words: Oliver Cully | Image: Vivian Ngan

On 27 November 2021 the Ruffians of RHKYC achieved something that went largely unnoticed, even amongst most of the Ruffian sailors on the water. For the first time in around twenty years, every single boat was on the water for the Saturday afternoon race. It was the first race of our Frostbite Series – I can remember it well, the skies were blue and clear, and a solid easterly breeze of around 10-12 knots; perfect sailing conditions. I looked around us with a big smile on my face as I counted – yes, we’d really done it, all 14 boats were there, beating up Victoria Harbour towards the windward mark.

During the past 45 years of the Ruffian sailing in Hong Kong, the fleet has been through various ups and downs but thankfully the past 10 years have seen a strong upturn for the class. This has happened for many reasons including support from the RHKYC, dedicated Ruffian Committee Members, investment in boats from new and existing owners and most of all, a constant stream of new sailors wanting to get involved in Ruffian sailing.

What’s equally satisfying is that this achievement comes at a time when the fleet is hugely competitive. By my calculations, 7 of our 14 boats have won races so far this season whilst 12 boats have achieved at least one top 3 finish. This includes strong results from Picaro (HKG 237), now owed by Olaf Torne. Olaf and team on Picaro have pulled off four podium finishes so far this season including their fabulous race-win just a month or so ago. This already makes it Picaro’s best season in several years; she seems likely to become a consistent front runner in the future.

At the top of the Class Ladder is Helios (HKG 501) – helmed by Anthony Tong and Steve Lo. In addition to a well-deserved Around the Island Race win (Ruffian Class) the team lead three of our series – the Rogue, Autumn and Frostbite Series, and have a high chance of winning all these and the Class Ladder if they can maintain their consistently high performance.

Buster (HKG 517) - the dominant boat in our fleet for several seasons, has pulled off equal numbers of wins and podiums as Helios, but has been less consistent than in previous years. She still leads the Chairman Series however, and nearly achieved (another) fabulous Lipton Trophy result, with a 4th overall on handicap out of 58 boats.

My boat Scallywag (HKG 1059) has had a decent start – we welcomed three new owners to Scallywag at the start of this season, Scott, Regan and Clement, meaning the boat is now owned by British, American, Hong Kong and Frenchmen – a truly international vessel. Three of us owners have helmed this season and we’ve pulled off the most podiums of the fleet so far (8) including two race wins to take the Intraport Series back in October with Regan at the helm.

Other notable performances include Victory 9 (HKG 515), now under the ownership and guidance of long-term crew member Wan Kit Kot taking over the reins from Uncle Li. V9 has achieved 2 race wins and 6 podium places so far this season. And Larrikin – it was always going to be hard to compete with the team’s highly successful 2020-2021 season, however with 2 race wins, Larrikin is still one of the hardest boats to beat when she’s in the groove. Bandolero and Miss Piggy have also had some good results and Brigand with new

ownership and an energetic crew and an experienced skipper in Gareth Williams, back at the helm of a Ruffian after a quarter century hiatus are showing real promise. In fact, pretty much every boat in the class has positives to take from the season and much to build upon. Onwards and upwards for the Ruffians of Hong Kong!


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