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Breathing new life into an old race

by Guy Nowell 12 Apr 2019 17:29 BST
Inaugural Hong Kong to Puerto Galera Yacht Race will be in 2019 ©

Every other year since 1977, Hong Kong offshore sailors have set out for San Fernando in La Union Province, Philippines. San Fernando was originally chosen as a destination because it was the nearest Port of Entry to Hong Kong. It was a quiet seaside holiday town then, and even more quiet more recently. Actually, that’s being over-polite – it was run down well beyond quaintness or shabby chic, and wasn’t really an attractive destination at all. Research Reef, that partially protected the fleet at anchor in front of Bauang Beach, had largely disappeared on account of dynamite fishing. The beach itself disappeared leaving an eroded shore line right up to cabana-style resorts that accommodated the fleet, and a change of venue was definitely called for.

For some while a coterie of RHKYC members campaigned for the race to go to Puerto Galera – the Port of the Galleons, form the days of the Spanish occupation of the Philippines. It’s a fabulous anchorage, and is officially listed as one of ‘The Most Beautiful Bays in the World’. There’s the Puerto Galera Yacht Club, which is more relaxed than a ginger cat in the sun. There are plenty of bars along the town quayside, and lots of accommodation on tap. All-in-all, it seems like a no-brainer. So this year, for the first time, it’s a race to Puerto Galera instead of San Fernando.

However. The RHKYC’s ‘senior’ race, the much-celebrated Rolex China Sea Race which has been running since 1962, began at 650nm (Hong Kong to Manila) and is now a 570nm race (Hong Kong to Subic Bay). The San Fernando Race, often considered to a less serious affair, was raced over 480nm, and the rhumb line to Puerto Galera is a full 650nm. Where that puts it in the pecking order is anyone’s guess.

Here’s another good reason for going to PG: now you’re on the lip of some of the most fabulous cruising in the world. The Philippines is massively underestimated as a cruising destination, but turn west out of PG and slip through the Calavite Passage, and you find yourself among the northern Palawan islands – Calauit, Busuanga, Culion, Linapacan – and then on to Palawan itself. Quite simply, why wouldn’t you? These days you can fly into and out of almost anywhere, straight from Manila International Airport. Some of the destinations have scheduled services, and a charter fllight is a cost effective option for the rest. Sail-World Asia once flew Subic to Puerto Galera, and landed less than 100m from our host’s house – it’s the only way to go!

PHINSAF (the Philippines Inter-island Sailing Federation) has just run its third Punta Fuego to Busuanga Race (see story, below). These are the people who run the Philippines Hobie Challenge over a different route every year, and they know a thing or two about where to go in this immense and fabulous archipelago.

It’s Singapore Yacht Show time again – currently the best boat show in Asia but held somewhat ironically in the least private-boat-friendly place in the entire SE Asia region. If you could arrange a test drive (which you can’t) the only place you’d get to outside One15 Marina would be Lazarus Island, just 1.7nm away. Who needs a boat in Singapore? If you really want to go boating hereabouts, get across the Singapore Strait to Nongsa Point (Batam, Indonesia) and start exploring the Riau Archipelago. Magic.

More from Singapore later. Next up: Puerto Galera. Wish for some wind!

Guy Nowell, Asia Editor

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