24 Hour Charity Race, Saturday

The Hebe Haven Yacht Club’s annual 24 Hour Charity Dinghy Race is more – much more – than just a sailing event. It is a 24-hour sailing enduro, attracting sailors from around Hong Kong and includes a unique onshore carnival.

As the title suggests, the overall principle is charity and the principal beneficiary is the Children’s Cancer Foundation. Since the event’s inception in 2002, more than HK$10 million has been raised for this worthy charity and other causes. At the first event, the total was HK$350,000 but, since then, figures have often reached the HK$1 million mark. In 2018, for example, the sailors themselves raised HK$400,000 and the remaining HK$600,000 was donated by big corporations such as Haeco and the Standard Chartered Bank.

The number of boats has been fairly consistent at around 30 with, for example, 2018 attracting 33 and 2019 a similar number. But there have been times when numbers were higher – for example 2012 saw 47 boats competing.

Being an overnighter and given that dinghies don’t have accommodation, tent villages have featured in and around the club to give sailors some respite between ‘shifts’. These tents fill the Garden Bar area and even spill out onto the sidewalk and parking area. On the docks, the competing teams erect gazebos so that managers can be closer to the action. 24-hour events require a different approach to sailing. The role of the team manager is paramount, ensuring that the right people are on at the right time, light airs skills, crew weights, changeover tactics and so on. Working it out in advance pays dividends; making it up as you go along doesn’t.

Along with the committee boat and various support and safety craft, is the very important junk positioned at the end of the dock. From its spacious aft deck times are taken and records kept.

Manning this vital check point is done entirely by volunteers and the race could not take place without it.

The 2021 edition of the race started on schedule at 1400 from a line between the dock and committee boat, Hebe One. To witness the 38 starters, VIPs and local dignitaries watched from the upper deck of the committee boat as the fleet headed off for the first of four rounding marks.

The breeze was light (4-6 knots). It stayed that way well into the night as the race progressed and laps were accumulated on the 1-nautical-mile course.

Meanwhile, on shore, a carnival atmosphere prevailed. It was all happening, with seasoned compere & music man, Kevin Lewis, keeping everyone informed on the PA system. Some 30 stalls featured small (and big) operators such as Sextant Marine, Ozzie Cozzie, Crossroads, AIA, Corney & Barrow, Glitter Tattoo, HK Trail Maps, Outdoor Fitness, Booze by the Box and a variety of F&B outfits. Doing a roaring trade selling South African products was Aitch’s Biltong.

Through the afternoon and into the night, the bands Leveling Out, Don’t Panic and The Red Stripes provided pulsating music . . . as sailors slept nearby! All part of the fun of the 24 Hour Charity Dinghy Race – a true community event.

On the water, in the darkness, crews sailed on. At 2359, Q3 Boom Bangers had completed an impressive 31 laps but with its PY rating of 1166, was placed 5th on handicap.

Leading the fleet on corrected time was the Hansa 303, H1 Sailability Warrior (Star Fish) with 26 laps completed, followed by the RS Feva RBJs with 29 laps, and another Hansa 303, H45 Jelly Fish, with 22 laps completed.

With 14 hours to go, it’s still too early to predict the winners. Given its current performance, Boom Bangers could well score the highest number of laps . . . but handicap honours is anyone’s guess.

Stay tuned.

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