BY RHKYC on 27 Mar 2023

Three TP52s filled with veteran sailors offer an exciting competition within the forthcoming Rolex China Sea Race 2023

Three 52-foot TP52 grand prix racing yachts are expected to push the limits in what is likely to be close racing in the Rolex China Sea Race 2023 edition. This highly competitive group features international entrant Standard Insurance Centennial 3 as well as local teams in Rampage 88 and Happy Go (ex-PapRec).

Standard Insurance Centennial 3 – Philippines entry

Standard Insurance Centennial 3 during the 2018 Rolex China Sea Race – photo courtesy Rolex/Daniel Forster

Standard Insurance Centennial 3 is the team to watch, having participated in four China Sea Races: 2012 (as Jelik 5), 2014, 2016, and lastly in 2018, when they took 1st place in the IRC 0 division and 3rd IRC Overall. Standard Insurance Centennial 3 will be skippered by Emerson Villena, who has crossed the South China Sea 23 times. Lester Tayong, who won a gold medal helming a 470 in the 2019 Southeast Asian Games, will be his navigator.

Read: The Rolex China Sea Race returns after a five-year absence

The final approach to the Philippines is more often sailed in light winds, demanding a different skill set and considerable patience. Yachts are met with the infamous ‘Luzon Hole’ often causing the fleet to compress and effectively restart the race as they near the coast of the Philippines. Standard Insurance Centennial 3 from Subic Bay Yacht Club should have the best tactics and local insight on how to navigate through it.

Rampage 88 – Hong Kong, China entry

Rampage 88 during China Coast Regatta 2022 – Photo courtesy RHKYC/Guy Nowell

Noel Chan, the owner of Rampage 88, has been racing for a long time and his Rampage boats are recognised across Hong Kong waters. Team Rampage 88 consists of a mixture of both local and expat professionals, plus some relatively novice sailors. The first Rampage team joined a Rolex China Sea in 2018 onboard Rampage 2 – an HH42.

Read: Father and son duo prepare to take on Rolex China Sea Race 2023

Noel Chan acquired Rampage 88, a Judel and Vrolijk designed TP52 (ex Zerocloud) from Italy, after their 2018 Rolex China Sea Race and hired Matt Humphries, five-time Whitbread Round the World/Volvo Ocean Race sailor from Britain to lift their game.

After a year of solid training, the team started to see the results pay off, climbing up the ranks in local competition amongst the other TPs. Fresh from taking the IRC overall win in the Sun Hung Kai & Co. Around the Island Race 2022, Rampage 88 is aiming for a win at the Rolex China Sea Race. “We predict our biggest challenge will be when we get below Luzon near Subic. The wind dies down significantly and here skill, and a not insignificant amount of luck, will be needed to punch through this quickly,” said Daniel Mark on behalf of the team.

Happy Go – Hong Kong, China entry

TP52 HappyGo (ex Paprec Recylage) will make up the triad of TP52s in contention – Photo courtesy RHKYC/Guy Nowell

Happy Go (ex Paprec Recyclage) would appear to be the least experienced boat in the fleet, having newly arrived in Hong Kong and only hitting the water in the past week. But the boat is loaded with talent and experienced offshore sailors, including Tiger Mok, the only Hong Kong Volvo Ocean Race sailor, along with 2014 Incheon Asian Games Hong Kong Team sailors Owen Wong and Dominic Law. Happy Go is skippered by Jono Rankine (NZ), who coached Owen and Dominic and has extensive experience in offshore racing, including the 2021 Transpac Race and the 2015 Transatlantic Race, along with other Rolex offshore events including the Rolex Sydney to Hobart and Rolex Middle Sea Race.

Other notable sailors on board include past RHKYC Commodore John Woo, along with Rear Commodore of Royal Ocean Racing Club, Andrew Taylor (29 x Rolex Sydney to Hobart Race, Caribbean 600, Rolex Fastnet Race, 9x Hong Kong to Vietnam Race) who will be adding their wealth of offshore experience to the Happy Go team.

The 2023 Rolex China Sea Race starts on April 5, 2023, returning to action for the first time since 2018.