Rolex China Sea Race starting April 5
Asia’s classic offshore race returns for the first time since 2018, with competitors from across Asia-Pacific sailing from Hong Kong to Subic Bay.
Rolex has partnered RHKYC since 2008; © Rolex / Daniel Forster
Five years after the previous edition, the 30th edition of the Rolex China Sea Race will start on April 5 in Hong Kong’s iconic Victoria Harbour and take competitors 565nm (1,046km) across the South China Sea to Subic Bay in the Philippines.
Rolex has enjoyed a longstanding relationship with yachting dating back to the late 1950s. Close support of pre-eminent yacht clubs and first-class events has been the cornerstone of this partnership.
Rolex has title sponsored the biennial Rolex China Sea Race and partnered its organiser, the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club (RHKYC), since 2008. The Category 1 Offshore Race is run under the auspices of Royal Ocean Racing Club (RORC).
This year’s edition marks the 61st anniversary of this offshore classic, which was first held in 1962 and is Asia’s oldest blue water race. Many of the world’s best-known sailors and yachts have tried to master the race and the 565nm offshore course is considered a real test of sailing skill.
The fleet will again depart from Victoria Harbour; © Rolex / Daniel Forster
While most of the fleet are Asia-based, sailors from around the world have been drawn to participate by the race’s elevated standing as well as the stringent examination of skill and endeavour it presents, its underlying Corinthian spirit and traditions.
Lucy Sutro, the RHKYC Commodore, said: “We are honoured that this Asian blue-water classic is part of Rolex’s distinguished portfolio of international offshore races. After five years of absence, we are delighted to see both local and international entries coming back to this iconic race.
“For several decades Rolex has cultivated close associations with the best-known yacht clubs and organisers of major events in the world of sailing. We are proud that this race was the first Asian sailing event sponsored by Rolex and that, with their support, the race continues to arouse attention within the international yachting fraternity.”
Over the years, overall winning yachts have represented Hong Kong, the Philippines, Singapore and Japan, as well as Australia, UK and France.
Entries come from across Asia-Pacific; © Rolex / Daniel Forster
There are two main prizes. The most coveted accolade is the Rolex China Sea Race Trophy for the overall winner under IRC time correction (handicap). The first boat to cross the finish line on real time (Line Honours) receives the Sunday Telegraph Trophy. A Rolex timepiece will be awarded to the first boat under IRC Overall handicap and first Monohull Line Honours.
The multihull race record of 38 hours, 30 minutes, 7 seconds was set in 2018 by Karl Kwok’s trimaran MOD Beau Geste. The monohull race record 47 hours, 31 minutes, 8 seconds was set two years earlier by Philip Turner and Duncan Hine’s Alive. Alive would later go on to win the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race in 2018.
One of the most significant moments is the start from Victoria Harbour, set against the backdrop of one of the world’s most distinct skylines. Competing yachts navigate through both traditional and modern sea traffic before embarking on the long passage through the South China Sea to Subic Bay.
This open-water segment frequently presents tough conditions with punishing seas and fierce winds. By contrast, the final approach to the Philippines is more often sailed in light winds, demanding a different set of skills and considerable patience.
Yachts are met with the infamous ‘Luzon hole’, often causing the fleet to compress and effectively restart as they near the coast of the Philippines. The net result is that many boats have a chance of lifting the Rolex China Sea Race Trophy under IRC – it all depends on how they play their approach to the Philippines.