Tuesday, July 11, 2017 12:12 PM

Hopes of Third Time Lucky for Ark 323

The Notice of Race invites eligible yacht owners to enter one of the world’s toughest offshore races starting at 1pm AEDT on 26 December 2017 in Sydney’s iconic harbour.

As was the case in 2016, this year the Notice of Race was released in Mandarin and posted to the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia’s WeChat account. It came as little surprise then that the first to enter was the TP52 from Mainland China, the Ting Lee-owned, Ark 323.

The team were quick to show that their enthusiasm to be involved in the great race in 2017 has only grown following their debut outing two years prior when they became their country’s first ever entry.

Commenting on the entry of Ark 323, CYCA Commodore John Markos said, “From the early entries to the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race it’s clear that there is already a huge amount of excitement about the 73rd edition and we welcome and congratulate Ark 323 as being the first entry into this year’s race. It’s great to see their enthusiasm building as sailing is set to rapidly grow in China and we look forward to following their progress over the coming months.”

The latest Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race campaign comes following what was far from an ideal start for Ark 323 in 2015 after they sustained heavy damage in a collision near the start line which forced them to retire from race whilst still in Sydney Harbour.

Unperturbed, the boat returned with another Chinese crew in 2016 but bad luck struck again as they lost their mainsail and sustained boom damage on the first night. However, sailing with just a jib, the crew successfully managed to complete the race.

For 2017, the team at Noahs Sailing Club will be travelling to Sydney with Ark 323 months in advance of the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race to undertake an extensive training and familiarisation program to give themselves the best possible chance of an improved result.

We caught up with Simon Zhang, the Director of Noahs Sailing Club, to talk through their expectations and hunger to compete in the race for the third time, and also the positive impact that they hope their participation will have on sailing in China.

Describe the challenge of the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race?

Simon Zhang: “Weather is a huge factor which makes the race ultimately unpredictable. The Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race has been well known for its changeable conditions so heavy winds and big swell means increased intensity in almost every aspect of the race. This in turn challenges the sailors' skills and their athletic endurance. It’s not something which you can just go out and do, it requires years of training.”

“When you add these factors into the backdrop of Sydney Harbour and the geography of Tasmania – the stunning visuals – it creates a complete package. A beautiful challenge.”

How will you be preparing for the race?

SZ: “We are planning to compete in the Rolex Fastnet Race in UK in August 2017 with an all Chinese crew. We will arrive in Sydney in September, and then start training. We will be participating in local Sydney races over the following weeks and months. Through those competitions we will be learning more about the boat, improving our sailing skills, language abilities, and teamwork. We still have many things to learn and we move forward with every problem or small challenge we meet.”

What impact are you hoping that your racing has on sailing fans in China?

SZ: “We hope that by participating in this race, we will be able to improve the yacht racing environment in China by growing the audience and showing other sailors that they too can compete in one of sailing’s biggest challenges.”

“In recent years, the number of Chinese sailing competitions has increased significantly. As a healthy, social and environmentally friendly sport, we think sailing has a bright future in China.”

“In April, the Commodore of the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia, John Markos, visited China and connected with many yacht clubs. Through the relationships the CYCA made during that trip and then our entering the race for the third time, we expect the profile of the race to grow further in China. Following that, we believe there will be more Chinese boats entering the race, and other international races, in the near future.”