Mirs Bay Race

It was a scorcher of a day. Temperatures soared above 35 degrees and Sunday, the 24th, was declared Hong Kong’s hottest July day since records began in 1884. The Observatory recorded an extreme of 39 degrees Celsius in Sheung Shui and 38 degrees in Happy Valley. Out on the water, haze and reflected light made things worse.

But, there was wind – 5 to 7 knots of it – blowing into Port Shelter from the southeast and enough to get the five fleets started and on their way up to Mirs Bay. Fifty boats entered, 45 turned up.

Heavy traffic on Hiram’s Highway contributed to at least one crew not making it on time.

Historically, the Mirs Bay Passage Race has been a weekend affair with boats sailing north and turning left into picturesque Long Harbour. There, crews would enjoy a prize-giving and feast ashore at Wong Shek but Covid restrictions put an end to that. In 2020, a new course was added to the sailing instructions where the faster boats would sail around a northerly mark (likely Gau Tau) and the slower boats through a gate off Conic Island. All boats would then return to a finish off Basalt Island or Little Palm Beach the same day. The same applied last year and the same applied this year, with the race officer having a choice of half a dozen specific courses to choose from.

At 1010, from the committee boat anchored in 21 metres of water between Shelter and Table Islands, race officer Rob Allen gave his welcome on Channel 72. He urged everyone to sign in and warned about dehydration saying that safety boats were ready to assist anyone in need.

At 1100, 12 boats in IRC Division A started on Course 23 with Witchcraft leading Zannekin off the line while the TP52, Alpha Plus, enjoyed clean air at the pin. After rounding a windward mark, their course would take them through a gate, leaving a Tai Long Wan mark to starboard, on to an offshore mark to the south, passing a Basalt mark to port and westwards to a finish off Table Island – a distance of some 22 nautical miles.

IRC Division C departed at 1105 with Dexter II in the lead. They were given Course 24 which covered a shorter distance of 18 nautical miles. Then, over the VHF, came an announcement that there were some technical problems and that the AP would be raised briefly.

With the AP lowered at 1117, the countdown for the J/80 Class and HKPN A Division began. Five J/80s and 12 HKPN boats started at 1122 on Course 24.

The last start five minutes later saw too much enthusiasm and a general recall. Eventually, the nine boats in HKPN B left at 1135 on Course 24.

At the windward mark, there was plenty of action with Happy King touching and doing a 360 penalty.

IRC A, disappearing into the distance, was soon rounding its northerly Tai Long Wan mark but, although the breeze was holding at between 6 and 7 knots, RO Allen decided it would be wise to shorten at Basalt Island for the sake of the slower boats. An announcement was made over VHF and the S flag was raised on Hebe One. Meanwhile, the IRC A & C leaders had rounded their offshore mark and were approaching fast.

Line honours went to the competitive Archambault 35, Dexter II, at 13:12:09. Next over the line was Alpha Plus in an elapsed time of two hours, 23 minutes and 53 seconds.

On handicap, IRC A was won by Alpha Plus, with Zannekin in 2nd and Witchcraft 3rd. IRC C was won by Dexter II, ahead of Arcturus and Blu.

The J/80s saw Baring Asia 1 victorious with Cynthia Law’s Jelik 6 in 2nd. New boat Black Pearl, a Solaris 44, topped the HKPN A results on handicap, with the determined Havoc in 2nd and the improved Victoria claiming 3rd.

On handicap, LoTech won HKPN B ahead of Foxzhead and an impressive 3rd by Pepper & Salt. Ma Cherie 2e, characteristically, retired. La Folia was the last boat to finish at 15:25:21, in an elapsed time of three hours, 50 minutes and 21 seconds.

But Race 5, the Mirs Bay Passage Race, of the UK Sailmakers Typhoon Series 2022, was not without controversy. There were five protests and the final results for IRC C, J/80s and HKPN A were not made public until Friday, five days after the event. Four protests were brought by Minnie the Moocher for boats that rounded the starboard (instead of the port) buoy of the gate.

Consequently, Moll, Footloose, Jelik 7 and Jibulai each received an NSC. Harsh after such a hot and demanding day on the water but, rules are rules, otherwise there is no point in having them.
The next two races in the series are scheduled for the 7th of August 2022.

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