Published: Tuesday, 22 March 2016

The 2016 Rolex China Sea Race (Mar 23) is ready to kick off in Hong Kong’s iconic Victoria Harbour and will finish 565-nautical-miles later in Subic Bay in the Philippines.

2016 Rolex China Sea Race Ready To Kick Off

(Photo: Kurt Arrigo / Rolex) 

This year marks the 28th edition of this biennial Offshore Category 1 race, run under the auspices of RORC since 1972. Organising authority Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club (RHKYC) is hosting 33 local and overseas boats at its Kellett Island base prior to the start, including entries from Australia, China, Japan, Philippines, Russia and Singapore.

The fleet will gather for the start in front of RHKYC’s Kellett Island clubhouse after a demanding preparation period, during which all participants have ensured that they satisfy the World Sailing Category 1 offshore sailing requirements (with RORC prescriptions).

Renowned as being a tricky race, the China Sea Race typically starts with grey skies in a cool Hong Kong. Once the fleet approaches the northern coast of the Philippines a strong daytime breeze kicks in and tactics become supremely important as boats do their utmost to keep moving in the light airs of dawn and dusk.

“General consensus is that the Rolex China Sea Race is up there as one of the most challenging Category 1 races on the planet,” says Race Chairman Simon Powell. “Despite significant commercial shipping, the South China Sea is a remote part of the world that requires crews to be prepared for self-rescue in the event that something goes wrong. As a blue water race, it has a bit of everything from a spectacular start in the iconic Hong Kong harbor, through the lumpy challenging conditions on the first night to the deep blue water as you near the northern Philippines.”

2016 Rolex China Sea Race Ready To Kick Off 1

(China Sea Race Tropy)

The boats currently being touted as likely ‘Line Honours’ candidates are RP66 Alive and Banuls 60 catamaran MACH2 although in IRC Racer 0, TP52’s Freefire and Standard Subic Centennial cannot be discounted given the variable conditions approaching the finish, as well as the Smith 72 Antipodes. Swan 82 UBOX is also said to lift the Sunday Telegraph Trophy if she hits the right conditions.

Current favourites for IRC Overall (on corrected time under IRC handicap) are Ker 42 Black Baza in IRC Racer 1 and, once again, Alive, however the lottery of conditions as the boats near their destination means that timing is everything and, given a perfect set of circumstances, any of the IRC entries could lift the three-legged China Sea Race trophy.

There are many different motivations for owners and crew to compete in Asia’s blue-water classic, neatly summed up by Black Baza’s Anthony Root saying “the ultimate satisfaction is the total experience of working together as a team, the adrenaline rush of offshore reaching, harnessing the elements to maximum strategic advantage, and getting the most out of the boat.”

“The Rolex China Sea Race might be less than half the age of the Fastnet Race but, in my opinion, it’s still the Asian classic and one that should be on every offshore sailor’s bucket list,” added Powell.

SailOnline is once again running a virtual Rolex China Sea Race. Interested sailors can register for the race online at:

Race action will be tracked by YB Tracking and will be shown live on the race website and at: