Subic—Clocking 12 hours, 45 minutes and 47 seconds, Ernesto Echauz’s Standard Insurance Centennial 5 crossed the finish of the Rolex China Sea Race here with an elapsed time of 3d 1h 25m 47s, marking the first time in its 61-year history that a Philippine entry has taken a Line Honours division triumph.
Skippered by Echauz and supervised by an all-Filipino crew, Standard Insurance Centennial 5 was the first boat to cross the start line and lead the fleet out of Hong Kong’s iconic skyline Victoria Harbour last April 5 as they maintained their very comfortable lead throughout the race.
“It’s very historical! It’s the first time that a Philippine boat has won Line Honours at the Rolex China Sea Race. It’s such a prestigious race for us,” a jubilant Echauz, said during a media interview after the race.
It was the first time in over six dedaces that a Philippine entry has taken the Line Honours at the Rolex China Race, organized by the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club in co-operation with the Manila Yacht Club and with the finish hosted by Subic Bay Yacht Club.
The Rolex China Sea Race, the best offshore race in Asia, returned to Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbour after five years of absence because of the coronavirus pandemic. First held in 1962, this year marks the 61st anniversary of this offshore classic, the oldest blue water race in Asia.
The biennial race takes competitors 565-nautical miles (1,046 kilometers) across the South China Sea to Subic Bay, considered a real test of sailing skill, energy, persistence and team spirit.
Echauz’s, Rachel Pugh 75 Standard Insurance Centennial 5, is no stranger to this flagship offshore race, having participated in nine editions of the race, with the boat’s name twice engraved on the China Sea Race Trophy in 1998 and 2008.
The all-Filipino team is composed of current and former Philippines National Sailing Team athletes and from the Philippine Navy, including women laser sailors Alaisa Belmonte and Paula Bombeo.
“It’s such a prestigious race for us. In the 2008 edition when we won IRC Overall, the advice we had been given ahead of the race was that if we don’t go south of the rhumb line right away, there will be a large hole,” said Echauz, adding that “overall, we’re happy with our strategy. There was also some luck for us.”
Competitors navigate through traditional and modern sea traffic before facing the South China Sea’s demanding conditions. The final approach to the Philippines is characterized by lighter winds and the infamous “Luzon hole,” which often compresses the fleet.
The next yacht to arrive here was Hong Kong’s new participant Happy Go, loaded with talented and experienced offshore sailors, including Tiger Mok, the only Hong Kong Volvo Ocean Race sailor, along with 2014 Incheon Asian Games Hong Kong Team sailors Owen Wong and Dominic Law, placed second in the race.
Happy Go, skippered by New Zealand’s Jono Rankine and coached by Owen and Dominic, timed 13 hrs, 50 minutes and 12 seconds during the three-day offshore race. The Hong Kong entry is one hour, 25 minutes and 47 seconds behind Standard Insurance Centennial 5.
Placing third was another Hong Kong entry, Noel Chan’s Rampage 88, consisting of a mixture of both local and expat professional and some relatively novice sailors, all united by their passion for sailing and drive to be the best.
Rampage 88, a Judel and Vrolijk designed TP52, formerly called Zerocloud from Italy, clocked 14 hours, 42 minutes and 3 seconds. The boat was almost 15 hours at the rear of Centennial 5.