BY Anna Cummins on 15 Mar 2023

Cosmas Grelon and his father Philippe also took part in the 2018 edition of the biennial race

Cosmas Grelon, and his father, Philippe Grelon,

Cosmas Grelon (right) and his father, Philippe Grelon

The Hong Kong-based Beneteau sales manager, Cosmas Grelon, and his father, Philippe Grelon, will participate together in the Rolex China Sea Race 2023, which departs 5 April 2023 from Hong Kong.

The Rolex China Sea Race is a 565nm Category 1 Offshore Race organised by Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club (RHKYC), which takes competitors from Hong Kong to Subic Bay, Philippines. Rolex has been a partner of the club since 2007 and title sponsor of its flagship Race since 2008.

The father-son duo will enter as a double-handed team sailing on the Beneteau Figaro 3, in the name of Simpson Marine and Beneteau.

The Beneteau Figaro 3 is a high-performance sailing yacht that was designed specifically for solo and short-handed offshore racing. This innovative yacht is the first production monohull in the world to be fitted with foils, which is said to greatly enhance its speed and stability. The Figaro 3 is part of the Beneteau Figaro racing series.

The duo recently delivered the boat from Taiwan back to Hong Kong with the help of the Simpson Marine Taiwan team, and extensive preparations for the race are now well underway.

“It was a challenging delivery since the boat hasn’t been sailed much back in her home port in Taiwan,” says Cosmas. “On day one of the preparations in Kaohsiung, we went out for a sail to familiarise ourselves with the boat and sailing upwind in 15 knots of breeze, and the genoa headfoil broke unexpectedly… On day two, it was the mainsheet system which gave way. On day three, it was time to set sail for Hong Kong – we were not going to be stopped by any these small issues.”

Rolex China Sea Race

Rolex China Sea Race departs on 5 April 2023

The delivery from Kaohsiung to Hong Kong took the team 44 hours with fairly good weather conditions, and they clocked a top speed of 18 knots under spinnaker. The number of fishing boats and traffic out at sea was of particular note. Fortunately, with a reliable AIS system on board the Beneteau, they had clear visibility of the traffic and managed to dodge a couple of close calls.

The double-handed team have taken on the Rolex China Sea Race before in 2018, and the pair say they thought it would be great to return to the event on board an even more performance-oriented boat such as the Beneteau Figaro 3.

The 2021 edition of the biennial Rolex China Sea Race was cancelled in light of continued Covid-19 and ongoing international travel restrictions. 

The Grelons’ boat is currently lying in Hong Kong Aberdeen, and the team have a long list of things to do to optimise the boat ahead of the 600nm race from Hong Kong to the Philippines, and they are hoping to win in their category.

“There is a lot to consider when going offshore racing, from safety at sea courses and practising man overboard drills, to calculating and preparing all of the nutrition as well as preparing physically for the race. We also need to consider what kind of toilet system we will use, as a fixed toilet is not an option on the Figaro 3 in order to keep her as light as possible,” says Cosmas.

Cosmas and Philippe say they are hoping for strong reaching/downwind conditions, which would be optimal for the Figaro 3 due to its chistera foils that help to provide lift for the boat when sailing quickly. “In an ideal world, we would like to have 25 knots coming from 120 TWA for the race, but the reality is we can’t control that, so we need to be prepared for whatever comes our way,” adds Philippe.

The main focus for the team in the lead-up to the race is ensuring the boat is strong and safely able to get them to the Philippines by undergoing a series of sea trials in all possible conditions. After that, they say they will optimise the boat for the maximum performance that the Figaro 3 can deliver.

Follow the team during the Rolex China Sea Race 2023 with the live tracker on the race website.