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Wednesday, July 06, 2005

July 6, 2005-Macau Race (revision)

Waking up to the snap and crack of flags and banners on race morning gives one high hopes for a great day of sailing. Sunday morning in Macau was like that and we were excited and optimistic as we cast off our shore lines and headed out to the race course for the return race from Macau to Hong Kong.

We’d arrived in Macau on Friday afternoon after racing down from Hong Kong with the Cruise Owner’s Association. The conditions for that race were good also: we had 16 to 20 knots of wind blowing right towards Macau. The start was a bit of a joke, we hadn't a clue when the gun for our class was going to happen, we just saw some boats with our class flag and lined up with them. I was behind the curve with the jib so we started with the jib flapping, but Judy did win the start on position, and when I looked up, we were leading the fleet up the short leg to the windward mark. Unfortunately we forgot our sailing instructions about which way to round the mark and we had to wait for the next boat for someone to follow. After that fiasco, we got the kite up , a bit slower than the fully crewed boats but pretty fast, and the sail filled nicely and started pulling, and we were off. We debated about how to do the the first jibe, and finally decided that Judy would do the foredeck and I'd steer and do whatever else I could reach. Dropping the pole so she could swing it through the fore triangle was the trickiest bit, but we figured that out too, and then we jibed our way through the islands for almost all of the 31 mile distance to Macau’s buoy #1. The sailing was great, and the wind built all day. By the time it got to the high teens we were getting a bit shy of the jibes, and so we probably didn't sail the best angles, trying to avoid the next jibe, but neither did the boat that eventually won. Anyhow, we had a good leg, and had no major foul ups. Sailing double handed with the spinnaker against fully crewed yachts is satisfying when you pull it off, but it hard work, and we did fine, got third place, and were tired but happy when we tied up the boat at Club de Nautico in Macau.

Pearl River Delta

Bridge to Tiapa

Stunning Macau

Booming Casino Strip

Fishing Fleet

Macau's Busy Port

What sailors do when they arrive in a new port is go exploring, and that’s what we did too. After folding the sails, clearing in with the immigration folks who were dockside, waiting for us, and having a few cold brews at the after-race party, we set off to explore the city. The first order of business was dinner and we joined some other sailors at a good restaurant in the old town for Portuguese food and plenty of fine wine. After that we went to the casino district where Judy won enough on the slot machines to make us feel double lucky: first, for our sailing performance in the race and then for her winnings.

Macau is an exotic mix of China with a Portuguese flavor, in some ways unchanged for 400 years. On Saturday we walked all over the older parts of Portuguese Macau sight seeing and wandering up and down the narrow streets and alleys among the many colonial buildings and small shops. Everywhere we were dodging the motor scooters which seem to be the favorite form of transportation. We hiked to the top of the hill to the old fort with its ramparts and cannons dating from 1700 and took photos of the city. Coming down from that fort we tried to imagine what it must have felt like 400 years ago for Dutch soldiers fighting their way up its slopes against the Portuguese in the tropical heat, facing those cannons. And we thought of those soldiers spilling their blood and dying far from home. We were glad we came as sailboat racers, not soldiers.



Narrow Streets

Rock Carving

We finished our day at the awards party for the race with more food and wine and got a trophy for our finish the day before. We also got lots of positive feedback for how well we sailed shorthanded.

So now it was Sunday, and we doubled our crew with two women friends from Hong Kong, Sitske and Claire, who came down by ferry on Saturday night. The day was as good as that early morning wake-up promised with sunshine, blue skies, and steady wind. After clearing the last bridge and motoring into the open water where the start line was set, we felt even more excitement; it was clearly going to be a super day. there was good breeze and plenty of sunshine, and there were boats all around getting sails up and tuning up. Twenty minutes after putting up our own sails and throwing in a few warm-up tacks we crossed the line for the start of another race. Judy won it again and this time I was ready on the winches, in fact I overtrimmed, or she was late in turning up (it seems she was giving the boats barging in above us a break) but our speed was OK. Then she held up high enough to lay the first mark and off we went on starboard tack, leading the fleet. We never looked back and Wings never looked better, pointing high and sailing fast; what a great day!

After passing to leeward of one island, and getting swept up a little by the tide (so that's why those other boats stayed low!) we had a great beat crossing into Hong Kong waters, with the Number 1 sheeted in hard and all of us on the high side, the main flat and the traveller down for speed. We changed gears a few times as the wind went up and down, and we kept close watch on Wizard ahead and Xiphias behind, our main competition. There has never been a better day sailing.

But Hot! It was bloody hot and it seemed like no amount of sunscreen was enough to cut the sun’s blistering rays and no amount of water was enough to quench our thirst. By the time we reached our home port in Disco Bay we were all pretty red and parched. But that’s sailing as good as it gets, and we’re not complaining.

This is the life.

Going Home

Click Here for all the Macau photos

Fred & Judy, SV WINGS, Hong Kong

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