The Singaporean ‘AUDI ultra’ wins line honours in the VinaCapital Hong Kong to Vietnam Race but just missed out on setting a new race record
The race started at 13h55 on Wednesday the 19th, in about 20 knots of breeze near Lamma island in Hong Kong. A short upwind leg, around to windward mark and we turned SE in front of the fleet.
The Audi ultra immediately accelerated ahead of the other boats but we decided not to put up a spinnaker before we had cleared the many rows of large ships at anchor directly in our path. About 20 minutes later we popped a reaching spinnaker and AUDI ultra was quickly up in speeds over 20 knots, while the team started to settle in to a routine of 3 hour watches. 6 Crew in each being on deck in ‘stand-by’ mode for 3 hours, then racing the boat for 3 hours before getting a well-deserved break for the next 3 hours.
AUDI ultra makes covering miles easy and it did not take long before the other competitors disappeared over the horizon and as one of our Singapore crew, Sam (Ong Chin Yi), commented ‘I have never been at a place before when you cannot see anything (but water) around you’. The ocean can be a lonely place, but on the AUDI ultra at least you have 19 crew mates, besides the odd dolphin leaping out of the water.
Our progress was fast, very fast, and by the night we realised that we were in with a chance to not only win line honours, but perhaps even contest the record. Breaking records, in the end is a matter that is out of our hands unless the winds are strong enough, but the thought inspired the team to work even harder to cover the miles quickly.
Top speeds hit over 26 knots and long surfs at 22 knots were not uncommon as the helmsmen negotiated their way through the waves ahead. The AUDI ultra is so fast that waves become obstacles more than opportunities to surf, so those steering need to find her the best route through the wave pattern. This is not easy at the best of times but very hard in the pitch dark night.
However, it quickly became apparent that we were likely to have covered over 400 miles in our first 24 hours of sailing.
Suddenly during the night a squall hit the AUDI ultra and all below heard the scramble of ‘all hands on deck’ because our only reaching spinnaker onboard (AUDI is only allowed 5 spinnakers for this race) had split in two. The crew worked frantically to clear the deck and get a much smaller reaching jib (head sail) in place. During the manoeuvre some more damage was caused to pulpit and a couple of stanchions as the AUDI ultra racing team tried to get on top of the situation. When the crew finally sat down to catch their breath, we had spent 84 minutes sailing at near half pace and for the next 5 hours the AUDI had to sail with a less than optimal sail set which would later prove fatal.
However, by early light the wind had turned far enough NE, that the team had been able to put up a running spinnaker and we were back on track, although with a harder task having lost so much distance and time.
The entire second day was spent pushing the AUDI ultra at high speed and the record seemed very much within our reach as we gybed for the Vietnamese shore over 100 miles out. Although well ahead of the record at that time, we stayed cautious about our chances as closing on land means that the weather pattern changes from fairly stable and predictable Ocean winds to localised and hap hazard local weather.
Within 40 miles we saw substantial lightning and large dark clouds over land, which was not a good omen.
The lightning got more and more intense and it became obvious that the entry to the finish line was blocked by these cloud formations which we had to penetrate to make it in before the target time of early morning.
It did not take long before the AUDI ultra was engulfed in torrential rain and the most unstable wind conditions we have experienced.
Not only did the crew have to contend with rain that was so intense that you could not see many meters in front of you, but the wind became very erratic and then non-existent. If we were not spinning around in one place, we were heading in any direction but where we wanted to go. The boatspeed had dropped from peaks of 26.32 to 00.00 knots, causing our hearts to drop.
One could sense the frustration of the already exhausted team trying to squeeze any momentum out of AUDI ultra and set her on course for the last rounding mark before the short run into the finish line. Sails were changed in reaction to sudden opportunities of wind, but we could not help but feel that the opportunity of setting a historic record was simply running out of our hands like sand in an hourglass.
Over the next, near two hours, the AUDI ultra recorded only a few miles toward the finish and most of those even came from the current, more than our efforts, blood, sweat and tears.
As the sun come over the horizon, the rain cloud moved on and the rain finally cleared allowing us to see the beautiful Vietnam coast line and its stunning islands.
With that a light coastal wind returned allowing the AUDI ultra to once again gather pace, but with the record now out of reach.
AUDI crossed the line early in the morning of Friday the 21st, taking line honours in this magic yacht race, but sadly did not set a new race record this time. While it is easy to analyse and identify where we lost the hour we needed to claim the record, the nature of race records is that you cannot choose the time of leaving and in this case not the time of arrival.
We got caught out by the typical and sometimes violent rain and thunder squall activity along tropical coasts that often occur during the night and early mornings. In our case such a rain cell blocked our path to finish and greatly affected both the outcome for handicap as well us being able to claim the race record, that seemed so possible only hours before.
However, we got the desired line honours I am very proud of the newly formed Singaporean AUDI ultra racing team and have no doubt of its capability to achieve further successes on the high seas.
The young Singaporeans deserve a special mention the last 44 hours at sea has been all new to them and they took each challenge with a smile and good heart.
Jackson Ho (see enclosed picture) received the ‘Crew of the race’ honour and was given the helm for AUDI ultra to cross the line, which would be the first offshore win for a Singaporean Supermaxi.
The AUDI ultra tour of Asia will continue with the return trip to Singapore and November preparations for the Kings Cup in Phuket.
On behalf of the crew of the AUDI ultra and my co-owners (Ron Creevey and Thomas Zilliacus) I wish to thank our Team partners, who makes the programme possible:
- ONE15 Club Marina
- Sentosa Development Corporation
- Tiger airways
And the Singapore Sailing Federation.
Audi ultra Super Maxi and crew gears up for Hong Kong - Vietnam Race
Singapore-based skipper, Ludde Ingvall, and the crew of Audi ultra will be gunning for the world record as they set sail this Wednesday - taking on the exhilarating Hong Kong - Vietnam race.
Audi ultra Super Maxi racing yacht lands
in Singapore waters
Singapore will play host to one of the world’s most advanced and light-weight Ocean racing yachts, the Audi ultra.
The three owners of the boat – Ludde Ingvall, the skipper and builder of the Audi ultra, Thomas Zilliacus and Ron Creevey, co-Founders of Singapore based YuuZoo Corporation, one of the world’s leading mobile media and mobile
payment companies - believe that Singapore has the potential to sail in the America’s Cup in the future.
Known for the last two years as YuuZoo and the holder of various world records in sailing, the boat has been branded as Audi ultra and will be sailed and campaigned by the Audi ultra racing team under the Singapore flag.
The racing team will consist of the top Singaporean sailing talent combined with experienced International yachtsmen and women.
By launching this programme, the owners of the Super Maxi, together with the Singapore Sailing Federation, want to help further strengthen this base, initiate a strong and active Big Boat Sailing future for Singapore and help young Singapore sailors become world-class yachtsmen and women.
One of just five in the Super Maxi yachts in the world, the Audi ultra will be docked at Marina Bay till the end on September before sailing to compete in regattas around the region.
Background – Audi ultra
The Audi ultra racing team has over the last 25 years been one of the most successful sailing teams in the world. The team has run campaigns in partnership with international corporations and represented major premium brands.
Super Maxis are the yachts that claim all serious world records in sailing, be it Trans-Atlantic crossings or speed records. The Audi ultra is 95 feet in length and 14 stories high, making it highly visible when sailing into any harbour in the world, and delivering instant brand visibility.
The skipper of the boat, Ludde Ingvall, has twice raced around the world. He and his team have achieved:
- 2 x World Championships in the Maxi class
- 2 x Line honours in the Rolex Sydney to Hobart race
- 2nd in the 2001 Sydney to Hobart after being caught in a tornado
- 2 x Overall and line honours in the Rolex Fastnet Race
- Set the Trans-Atlantic World Record from New York to England
- 6 times Overall victory in the Gotland Runt race in Sweden
- Second in the South Atlantic Race from Cape Town to Rio de Janeiro
- Line honours and overall victory in the 100th Anniversary of the Chicago to Mackinac as well as the following year
- Winner of the Canon Big Boat Challenge