Published: Wednesday, 02 March 2016

Hong Kong's Aberdeen Boat Club (ABC) welcomed this year’s rescheduled Simpson Marine Four Peaks Race (Feb 27-28), just five weeks after the original race was pushed back due to an icy blast of force 8 winds. The forecast for the rescheduled, multisport race included light winds and calms from every direction.

Simpson Marine Four Peaks Race Ends With Light Winds

Philippe Delorme and his crew on Red Kite II finished first, followed by Glenn Smith’s Blackjack team, less than half an hour later. Tolo’s runners, Skipper Jonny Cannon and long distance, hill-runner Alex Orange came in third.

Ten minutes after the start gun had fired for Divisions A1 and A2, most of the eight competitors were still struggling to get over the line and the B Division start had had to be postponed.

For race veteran boat, Stephen Hilton’s Taipan 28 Ragamuffin, Division B’s four-boat start came too late because a spreader on his wooden mast had broken off during the pre-start manoeuvres.

For the newer, lighter boats there was always just about enough wind to keep moving, although the strong ebb tide that swept in when everyone was creeping past south of Lamma Island promptly divided the fleet into two. Out front were Red Kite II, Blackjack and, just clinging to their heels, Tolo and Andiamo.

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It wasn’t until late afternoon that Red Kite II made it to Lantau Peak, hotly pursued by the Blackjack. As Tolo crept in some time after sunset, teeth ground as they saw the lights of Red Kite II and Blackjack creeping seawards.

Tolo was underway again by 0123 on Sunday morning leaving Andiamo still waiting for its runner. By that time Cuchulain had thundered in, having decided to shift to the motoring division, and four or five other boats were at anchor or in the offing. Tristan Stewart, realizing there was no way anyone was going to make it to a fourth peak – especially in Sai Kung – wisely announced that the course would be shortened to the summit of Violet Hill on Hong Kong Island, the third peak for all divisions.

The fickle weather kept up its games during the small hours, giving those lucky enough to be in southern Hong Kong waters three hours of steady force 3 northerlies before, again, shutting down and repeating the first days sporadic and brief winds.

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Philippe Delorme and his crew on Red Kite II put in a brilliant race in incredibly testing conditions, finishing at 0406 on the second and final morning. They were hotly pursued by Glenn Smith’s Blackjack less than half an hour later. At 0606, still just hanging on to the leading pack, came Tolo’s runners. The remaining four boats trickled in slowly over the course of Sunday morning.

The leading boats had shown that whatever the winds, the Four Peaks Race is a challenge of endurance, skill, cunning and smart tactics.

But the biggest challenge proved to be for the poor souls manning the peak controls. Lantau Peak had expected to be done and dusted well before sundown, not hanging in until the small hours. Lamma’s Mt Stenhouse had expected their first business by late afternoon and for it all to be over by midnight or so…not nearer midday the next day. Teeth chattered. Supplies and water ran out…but runners were nonetheless met with a smile.

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The award ceremony for the Four Peaks Race will be held at Hong Kong's Aberdeen Boat Club (Mar 4).