Match Racing Nationals, Day 2

It was even greyer on Sunday morning, the 4th of April 2021, for Day 2 of the Hong Kong National Match Racing Championships, when the committee boat, Hebe One, dropped anchor in central Port Shelter. There, a 12-knot easterly prevailed.

Ahead lay a hectic schedule, involving eight flights of three matches each (ie. 24 races) to complete the round robin, before 1530, hopefully just enough time for a semi-final and final. 

Race officer, Inge Strompf, and her team of volunteers were keen to get racing underway so they arranged Douglas Waterston, who had taken over mark laying duties, to drop the three windward marks at a distance of 0.32 nautical miles at 085, 095 and 105 degrees. The leeward mark was close to the committee boat.

Flight 8, Match 1, between Alfred Okoth and Daniel Dolega, got underway at 1107, Match 2, between Adam Glendinning and Jono Slattery, followed five minutes later, with Glendinning being black-flagged and disqualified after three penalties, the last for being a fraction too early at the start. Duncan Gregor then took on Chan Yuk Wah (Fajai) in the final match of the first flight of the day.

Seven further flights of three matches each followed, with especially keen and competitive sailing, despite the fluky breeze, again resulting in frequent switches between the windward marks. Despite the drop in temperature to 21 degrees from 30 on Saturday, and the drizzle that settled in mid-afternoon, spirits remained high.

Amongst the most exciting races were two in the final flight of the round robin – Flight 15. The first was between Andy Pidden and Duncan Gregor, both tied with seven wins apiece and both beaten only by Thornburrow. With Pidden penalised in the pre-start, Gregor managed to take the lead at the start and hold on to it to win the match. The final match in the round robin saw Daniel Dolega and his young crew, with three wins out of eight, take on Ben Gunton and his youngsters with two wins. Very close racing followed right up to the finish, thrilling the competing crews resting on the committee vessel, and on the six spectator boats that ventured out to support of the event. Gunton just managed to squeeze across the line to level their scores of three wins apiece.

Time constraints meant there were no semi-finals or finals but, fortunately, the round robin results clearly defined the top three places.

Cynthia Law generated much excitement amongst the young sailors, watching from Hebe One, in Flight 13, Match 3, when she avoided two protests by Chan Yuk Wah (Fajai) to take the lead across the start line, only to be overhauled and finish the event with just one victory.

Adam Glendinning and Alfred Okoth both finished with two wins while Daniel Dolega and Ben Gunton finished with three apiece. Jono Slattery amd Chan Yuk Wah (Fajai) both won five of their nine races. Andy Pidden claimed 3rd place with seven wins. Duncan Gregor finished 2nd with eight victories leaving Mark Thornburrow, celebrating his 61st birthday, to take 1st place with a clean sweep. Attributed, as he explained “to experience and team work of his competent crew.”

Back at the Garden Bar of the Hebe Haven Yacht Club, where social distancing was still being observed, a brief prize-giving, the first in recent times, was held.

The format of the event was such that the youngsters were all keen to take on the more experienced guns, and especially Mark Thornburrow. At the end of the day Thornburrow gave much credit to the youngsters and especially Duncan Gregor. Sympathetic to Gregor who lost his only race to Thornburrow he commented “We all have to learn to lose sometime”. Adding later it was something he would also have to learn with the kids kicking at his heels!

Summing up the event, Adam Glendinning, the Hebe Haven Yacht Club’s rear commodore sailing, and race officer Inge Strompf, expressed gratitude to all the volunteers, umpires, officials and participating sailors who made it such a fun and memorable event. The young sailors, gunning to topple their elders, were an encouraging sign as were the friendly relationships between not only the crews from the different yacht clubs but also with the umpires and officials.

As explained by senior official, Tom Sheppard, it is hoped in future that each of the yacht clubs will develop their own match racing events, the best of whom would then compete in next year’s Nationals and perhaps compete again in international events.

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