After a lengthy break between regattas the 2007-08 AY Grand Prix Championships that determines the top racing class skipper and yacht each year in Asian waters, resumes this week, with the bi-annual Rolex China Sea Race and quickly followed by the President's Cup in the Philippines. Depending on weather conditions the overall RCSR winner could come from anyone of the very diverse yachts entered in the IRC Racing Class A & B. Two TP 52's of Sam Chan's Ffreefire 52 and Geoff Hill's new Strewth plus Neil Pryde's custom Welbourne 52 Hi Fi are expected to stage a good fight for line honours. Defending champion Fred Kinmonth/Nick Burns co-owned Farr/Mills 51 Fortis Mandrake will be hot on their heels and Chris Meads Corby 43 Full Metal Jacket is also expected to excel over the 565 nautical mile course. Ma. Fidel / Judes Echauz Sydney 46 Subic Centennial has always done well here and despite her age Jon Wardill's Cassidy 55 Australian Maid can still spring a surprise as waterline length is vital on long distance races. Given the right conditions the smaller boats in Racing B like Paul Bankowski's Kerr 11.3 Jaywalker, Roland Buser's Sydney 36 Stella and three Beneteau First 44.7's Cloud, Crystal and Walawala could also be in the hunt for the silverware and the Rolex timepiece. All will be chasing the 2000 Race Record of 47h 43m 07s set by Karl Kwok on the Whitbread 60 Beau Geste..
From the 1200 start time on Thursday 20th March, shore-based fans can follow the action online at http://www.rolexchinasearace.com as they are using PurpleFinder technology to provide satellite positioning from each boat, which will be updated every two hours during the race. The 24th running of this Asian blue-water classic has now become part of Rolex's distinguished portfolio of international offshore races. To receive Daily Reports and download copyright free high-resolution images one will have to register online at: http://www.regattanews.com
Presently in the AYGP Championships Ray Roberts DK46 Quantum Racing (11 points) has a clear three point advantage over Frank Pong's 75ft R/P Jelik (8 points) who have been battling it out regatta for regatta during the 2007-08 Season. As they are not competing on the RCSR this leaves the way open for Neil Pryde's Hi Fi, Fred Kinmonth/Nick Burns Fortis Mandrake and Sam Chan's Ffreefire 52 the chance to improve there standings and stage a final push for the coveted title.
However all this could change after the yachts arrive in the Philippines and get ready for the Presidents Cup in Subic Bay. Both Ray Roberts Quantum Racing and Frank Pong's Jelik are returning to the frey and expected to continue there head to head battle. Ray Ordoveza's Andrews/Excel 53 Karakoa is usually skippered by US racing legend Steve Benjamin and Ma.Fidel / Judes Echauz Sydney 46 Subic Centennial by Aussie Olympian Jamie Wilmot have won here before and may yet again throw a spanner into the works which is likely to affect the AYGP pointscore. Most the racing class from the RCSR have entered the President's Cup producing another impressive line up that will no doubt produce some exceptionally close racing. The skippers that can quickly adapt to the tricky Subic Bay conditions over the four-day, eight-race series that combines windward/leeward courses with passage races can expect to stand proud on the podium come presentation night.
Preparations are well underway for the grand finale at the 7th Koh Samui Regatta from 1st-7th June. Last season the AYGP Championships went down to the last race at Koh Samui with Frank Pong's Jelik being crowned Asia's top skipper and yacht for 2006-07, after narrowly piping Neil Pryde's old Hi Fi before the reconstruction. Just to recap over the five seasons the AYGP has been awarded Peter Ahern and YO! won the inaugural 2002-3 Championships, in 2003-04 the honours were divided between Peter Ahern becoming the Skipper of the Year and Sam Chan's Ffreefire the Yacht of the Year, over the 2004-05 Season Neil Pryde and Hi-Fidelity were victorious, then once again in 2006-06 Neil Pryde this time on Hi Fi Team Pryde and in 2006-07 Frank Pong on Jelik became the fourth different winner to claim the coveted title during a champagne soaked ceremony at the prestigious Central Samui Resort on Chewang Beach. Winning after eight hard fought regattas spanning five countries will undoubtedly go down as the only tried and tested methord to calculate the true Asian Racing Class Keelboat Champion each year.