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Congrats to Joachim Isler and Drew Taylor for winning IRC Class 1 in the 673-mile Hong Kong to Vietnam Race, an epic downwind ride from Hong Kong to the Asian paradise of Nha Trang, Vietnam. AMBUSH won IRC Class 1 impressively in 2 days 7 hours. “Our UK Sailmakers A2+ was our secret weapon this race,” said Taylor. Impressively, AMBUSH averaged 13.6 knots for the windy downwind race that started Oct. 16th. Taylor proudly set the boat’s speed record for the race at 25.95 knots. Here’s Drew’s take on the race:
“We got out of Hong Kong harbour reasonably well verses our competition. We won a couple of shifts but then lost some time while two-sail reaching. It didn’t help that we had to avoid a tow and a freighter prior to the top of the Lemma Islands, which we rounded with the Humphries 43 ZANZIBAR on our tail. We went straight into the A2+ from UK Sailmakers, a full-size kite made of heavier cloth that turned out to be our secret weapon in the race.
“The breeze started around 15 knots and built during the night to 18-24 knots. It was still comfortable sailing with the full-size kite and we were moving along in mid-teens steadily. I should note that we purposefully did the race with six skilled drivers. We were rotating helms every 30 – 75 minutes in the early stage of the race when we were trying to stretch out from the competition. The wave pattern was very short so, at that point, we were rotating drivers frequently.
“Through the second day the breeze continued to build, by midnight it was gusting into the 30s. The challenge was what to do in the frequent lulls of only 18 knots. In the end, we stuck with the A2+ which was probably a mistake. It was a very wet and wild and with the confused wave pattern. With the big sail up, we managed a couple of significant broaches (60-degree heel angle according to the instruments). To recover from one knock-down, we had to drop the kite and then re-hoist it. In the second broach, the connection to the masthead wind instruments ‘decided’ we should no longer know what the wind was doing! It also put a tear in the A2+.
“The next morning, we were getting more 30s and peeled to the fractional A6. The seas got flatter as we got into the favorable current. As long as the boat was moving along in the high teens or low twenties, we were very controllable. There was one moment, however, while trying to get the kite sheet back under the boom, our Swedish superstar driver tried to get rid of both owners in a mammoth broach. Despite many jokes about the two of us cuddling underwater, there was no issue as we were tethered to the boat.
“It should also be noted that there were many life jacket canisters going off as the green walls came down the deck (note to self: take a lot of spare canisters or turn jackets to manual).
“Around 11 am on the third day, the wind started to ease and we changed back to the A2+. A bit overzealously, we peeled to the A2, which quickly met its maker. We put the A3 up as we fixed the torn A2+, and then the ‘weapon’ went back up. At that point, the TP52 FREE FIRE got a good knock down in the exclusion zone, which we did not. We were able to gybe between the exclusion zone and the coast. That was really sealed our Class win.
“Near the finish we lost a couple of places in the overall standings as those ahead sailed into the finish at 15 knots while we drifted through the finish line. To add further insult, a massive rain squall soaked us five minutes after we crossed line.
“The Vietnam Race remains the best 600-miler on the planet in my view, letting us sail amazingly fast in shorts and t-shirts to end up in a great destination. In a couple of months it will be back to earth when we do the Sydney Hobart.” Taylor was referring to the boat bashing conditions boats meet in the Hobart race when a Southerly Buster comes through forcing the fleet bash upwind to strong winds and big seas. Also the northerly flowing current brings water up from Antartica – quiet different that blasting through the tropics! Good luck to Team AMBUSH and congrats again.