Ann Kirwan, former Commodore of Dublin Bay Sailing Club and a longtime NYC enthusiastic Ruffian 23 sailor captures the flavour for us with her report of this remarkable event on the other side of the world:
HONG KONG HOSTS FINAL SAILING EVENT OF RUFFIAN 23 GOLDEN JUBILEE
A team of 20 Irish Ruffian sailors travelled to Hong Kong on Wednesday, October 18th, to compete in the Golden Jubilee Ruffian Inter-Port Regatta, the 7th Interport Challenge. The first two took place in the early ’90s before the event was revived in 2009, when the Irish Ruffians were invited to Hong Kong. Since then, the event has been held every three years in alternate locations, but the 2021 visit to Hong Kong was delayed by two years due to Covid. However, this turned out to be very fortuitous, as 2023 is the 50th anniversary year of the Ruffian fleet.
The event kicked off with a briefing and practice session in Victoria Harbour, followed by a Sunset Cruise of the harbour with the fabulous Hong Kong skyline as a backdrop, before docking at the RHKYC pontoon for a party on board hosted by the Hong Kong Ruffians.
The racing started on Saturday (October 21st) with two club fleet races in the harbour, where the Irish Team were allocated four Ruffians, each with five Irish crew and an owner’s representative in a passive role, racing against four Hong Kong Ruffians. The Irish team won out by a small margin in both closely-contested races.
The teams retired to the magnificent facilities of the RHKYC club at Kellett Island in the heart of Hong Kong with fabulous views of the Hong Kong and Kowloon skylines, before heading for a dinner and much craic in a local restaurant with entertainment provided by “Flare”, a 5-piece band fronted by the helm of Ruffian 23 “Helios”.
The teams assembled on Sunday morning for a tribute to the Ruffian Golden Jubilee by the RHKYC pipe band, followed by a photo-shoot of all the participants on the pontoon steps. Each member of the Irish team was allocated to 11 Ruffians who participated in the 19 nautical miles passage race from Victoria Harbour, with lovely scenery around XXX Island, Shelter Island, and into Shelter Cove. Buster won the race in 4.5 hours, with all boats finishing within the next hour. Drinks and a BBQ were enjoyed in the beautiful setting of the RHKYC clubhouse at Shelter Cove, before a bus brought the team back to the Irish team hotel in Wanchai.
INTENSE RACING AT SHELTER COVE
It was back to Shelter Cove early on Monday morning for the final three races of the 5-race Interport Challenge (the passage race did not count for event points). Race Officer Ian Fleming (yes!) gave a briefing to the teams before he headed out aboard the committee vessel Hector Ross to lay the course and get the team racing underway, the officer and boat names reminding us of Hong Kong’s strong Scottish influence.
The Irish Team was assigned the boats sailed by Hong Kong for Saturday’s fleet races – Skellum, Bandelero, Helios and Victory 9 – while the Hong Kong team were assigned Miss Piggy, Larrikin, Brigand and Buster. The on-the-water umpires kept a close watch on proceedings, and used their red flags on a number of occasions. The Race Officer set a rectangular port course in a 6-8 knot breeze in extremely hot conditions. The Irish team got off to a great start, winning Race One by a comfortable margin. Race Two was very hotly contested, with the Hong Kong team ahead at one stage before the Irish claimed the win by out-manoeuvring the hosts on a slow downwind leg from marks 2 to 3.
TWENTY DEGREE SHIFT
Following a lull, the wind shifted by 20 degrees and the Race Officer announced a postponement while he re-laid the course, opting for a windward-leeward course for the final race. Brigand (HK) reached the windward mark first, closely followed by Helios (IRL) and Bandelero (IRL), with the rest of the fleet in hot pursuit The wind dropped on the long downwind leg and about six of the 8-boat fleet arrived at the leeward mark at the same time. With Skellum (IRL) and Brigand (HK) getting around clear of the bunch. Skellum just beat Brigand in a close finish, with the other Irish boats, Helios and Bandelero and Victory 9 finishing 3rd, 4th, and 6th respectively thereby sealing the race win for Ireland with 14 points to Hong Kong’s 22 points.
The teams retired to the welcome shade of RHKYC’s Shelter Cove clubhouse, where they enjoyed a few drinks before heading back on the bus to the Kellett Island clubhouse for a lavish rooftop wrap-up party and the prize giving.
PARTYING AT RHKYC HQ
As the sun set over Hong Kong the rooftop setting afforded fabulous views of the harbour and skylines of Hong Kong and Kowloon. RHKYC Commodore Lucy Sutro welcomed the Irish team and exchanged the RHKYC burgees with those of the visiting clubs – the National Yacht Club, Schull Harbour Sailing Club, the Dun Laoghaire Motor Yacht Club, and Clontarf Yacht & Boat Club.
Following a few words from Irish Ruffian Class Captain Feena Lynch, Irish team captain Ann Kirwan paid tribute to the fantastic organisation from the Hong Kong Ruffian Committee, especially Chairwoman Kat Chan, Vice-Chairwoman Vivian Cheung, and Secretary Paul Oen. Ann presented Chairwoman Kat with a gift of a framed handcrafted 3-dimensional chart of Strangford Lough with Portaferry, Northern Ireland, the birthplace of the Ruffian 23 fifty years ago, which was specially commissioned from Latitude’s Bobby Nash of Kinsale.
FIRST AWAY WIN IN FOURTEEN YEARS
The evening was rounded off with the prize giving and presentation of the Interport Perpetual Cup. As the home team had won the previous two Interport challenges in Hong Kong in 2009 and 2015, the Irish team was delighted to win the 2023 Golden Jubilee Interport.
The Irish team was:
Helm / Crew
Ann Kirwan National YC / Brendan Briscoe NYC, Ian Cutliffe Dun Laoghaire Motor YC, Helen Bradley DMYC, Brian Buggy NYC
Brian Cullen NYC / Mark Bourne NYC, Markie Becker NYC, Shane Brodie Clontarf Yacht &Boat C, Feena Lynch NYC
Cian Mullee Mayo SC / Maeve Curley MSC, Andrew Beatty MSC, Declan McCarthy DMYC, Charain Fong HK Ruffians
Nick Miller SID / Natalia Niewidok Sailing in Dublin, Aoife Hall SID, Eimear Ni Mhéalóid DMYC, Eoin O hEochaidh DMYC
A huge thanks is due to the Hong Kong Ruffian Association and the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club for hosting the 7th Ruffian Interport Challenge, and treating the Irish team to incredibly generous hospitality throughout the event. We look forward to welcoming the Hong Kong team back to Ireland in 2026, although the Golden Jubilee Ruffian Interport 2023 will be a very tough act to follow!