New faces to the Rolex China Sea Race
2023 is seeing an influx of new boats joining the Rolex China Sea Race fleet. Amongst them is 53 ft Swan Athena, debuting in her first China Sea Race, however sporting a very experienced crew who have collectively notched up 40 China Sea Races between them and includes the legendary Roland Lennox-King.
Roland might well be one of the most experienced sailors carrying many miles under his keel. He’s also coincidentally a past owner of Reverie, the first boat to ever win the China Sea Race in the inaugural Race back in1962. As an ex-Olympian for Hong Kong in 1972, on a two-person Tempest Keelboat, Roland has been sailing since the age of 4 and is currently in the process of sailing around the world.
Athena is skippered and co-owned by Shenton Drew, Roland’s son-in-law. Shenton is an ex-Royal Marine turned banker who has grown up on boats and previously competed in the 2016 edition of the Rolex China Sea Race. His goal is to get Athena home safely and quickly (in that order), saying “Having not taken the boat offshore since buying her in 2018, I’m most looking forward to seeing how she performs, especially on a beam reach, and sharing that experience with the crew. I expect my most memorable moment will be crossing the finish line, as this will mark my first offshore Cat 1 race as a skipper, which is a milestone for me. The objective of the race for us is to get to Subic as fast and safely as possible - with the primary focus of ensuing everyone has as enjoyable passage, which should not come at the expense of chasing a result. Athena was built for ocean sailing, so if we look after her, she will look after us – and who knows…. we might get a good placement.".
The other Swan in the fleet, this time a 56-footer is Parnassus owned by Thomas Attenborough. Their debut Rolex China Sea Race will see RHKYC Commodore Lucy Sutro amongst the crew. Lucy has previously participated in the China Sea Dash, but this will be her first Cat 1 offshore race, and she is looking forward to sailing with a great team of seasoned offshore sailors aboard Parnassus including Jamie Boag, Ian Fleming and Mark Dowding. The 21-year-old vessel not only takes on the event as her first offshore, but also her debut into racing.
Andrew Pidden’s J-99 Juice is another new-comer to the Rolex China Sea Race 2023, and is the smallest boat in the Race. Along with skipper Andrew, there will be a crew of six onboard including his eldest son, 27 year-old Matt and his youngest son 19 year-old Tom. Andrew has been sailing and windsurfing for many years, however hadn’t raced competitively for 20 years until moving back to Hong Kong in 2019 - since then it’s been non -stop racing with Juice, a Dragon and a Skeeta foiling dinghy.
Andrew acquired Juice in 2021 and that year she won the IRC 3 Division in the China Coast Regatta after only two warm up regattas. Andrew has been very active sailing in local regattas since then and says “20 months after commission, Juice is getting ready for her biggest challenge yet, the China Sea Race. This will be Juice first offshore race and for two of our crew, theirs also.” Said Andrew Pidden. With experienced sailors Isamu Sakai and Peter Baer on board, Juice is definitely one to watch in IRC Racer Division.
With 80+ regattas and 2,700+nm under his belt as skipper, Stefan Fillip is a newcomer to the Rolex China Sea Race with his Neo 400+ aptly named Neo One. Fillip while tackling his first offshore race, takes on the challenge with guidance from the very experienced offshore navigator in Cameron Ferguson (also Rolex China Sea Race Chairman) along with James Barker in the crew line up.
Johnson Yuen’s Hanse 370 Zoe will join their first ever Rolex China Sea Race as a group of local Hong Kong sailors onboard this HKPN division entry.
Pacific Sunrise, Sun Odyssey 42ds, is skippered by the experienced Thomas Wiesinger. Along with fellow crew member Stephan Philipp Kottek, these team members each share five China Sea Races each, for a total of 10 + crossing to the Philippines including the San Fernando Race.
The Rolex China Sea Race will start on 5 April 2023 in Hong Kong’s iconic Victoria Harbour and take competitors 565-nautical miles across the South China Sea to Subic Bay in the Philippines.