A brilliant performance from the MAPFRE crew in their second assault on Hong Kong waters. After a painful start, in clearly light and unstable wind conditions, the Spanish team, skippered by Basque sailor Xabi Fernández, took command of the Around Hong Kong Island Race. Reaching the wind first, gave MAPFRE a clear advantage over their rivals, finishing 14 minutes ahead of the second, and 25 minutes ahead of the third placed boat, the local team Scallywag.

© Maria Muiña I MAPFRE

Weather predictions had not been attractive, and this morning in Hong Kong (early morning in Spain), the 26-mile course was looking like it would provide the fleet with a slow race around the island, with predominantly light winds, particularly at the start and finish lines. There were indeed moments when the VO65 racing boats were registering practically 0 knots.

Following a postponement on the water, three of the six competing boats were early over the line, and were forced to take the penalty turn, and re-start; namely Brunel (who finally finished in fourth place), Turn the Tide on Plastic (last), and local team Scallywag (third).

After playing a good hand, MAPFRE was the first to reach the new wind, and as such break free from the fleet with a solid advantage.

Back onshore, Pablo Arrarte (37), at the helm for MAPFRE in the in-port races, explained,

We knew that the start was going to be very important, especially because in the start area of the bay there was no wind. Obviously the first boat to reach the wind, which was a little further out, was going to have the advantage. We had the current in our favour at the start, so it was pretty easy to be over the line early. We practiced quite a lot before the start with the times and distances, and were in the position that we felt was right. We then saw that a couple of boats came on top of us, but we could see they were going to be early, and finally started prematurely and had to turn back. Our start was quite clean, more or less as we thought, and we are very happy.”

© Maria Muiña I MAPFRE

Con estas regatas nunca sabes, porque igual que puedes sacar la ventaja en un momento también la puedes perder por

From then on there was very little wind, and with several manoeuvres, we were able to use a few gusts to get a little advantage. The good thing with being ahead, is that you can decide when to manoeuvre, and follow your own plan, whereas those who are behind are a little more conditioned. Being first meant we had a little more advantage. We got to the wind line first and were able to break away from the others. It went well for us, we were lucky, and were able to follow our plan as we expected,” admitted the Cantabrian sailor, indisputably one of the most respected helmsmen on the fleet.

With these races you never know. You might have an advantage at one point, then lose it in an area of calm, in the lee of a mountain, for example, come to a complete halt, and see the fleet sail past you. Fortunately this time, it was a race where the leaders seemed to have more pressure. The transitions we passed were also a little better, and so the key for us was really on the start line and the moments leading up to it,” declared MAPFRE’s navigator Joan Vila.

During the course, the Race Committee announced that the route would be shortened due to the particularly light wind conditions in the area leading up to the finish line, which would have left the fleet at an unnecessary standstill.

We knew that the limit was to finish before 16.00h local time, and if they didn’t shorten the race, it was unlikely that the boats could finish within that time frame. Considering the conditions, it was the right decision, as later there is very little wind within the island, and between the buildings of Hong Kong.