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Up, up and away on inaugural Subic Bay Verde Island Passage Race

24:02:2018 Subic Bay, Philippines: With the North Easterly blasting in at 20 to 25 knots, the fleet carefully approached the downwind start line as the horn sounded and the inaugural Subic Bay Around Verde Island Race got underway in earnest. As the 'All Clear' came across the radio, from the pin end it looked as if it was a toss up between Geoff Hill's Smith 72 Antipodes and Ernesto Echauz's TP 52 Standard Insurance Centennial III to be first across the line.

Jun Avecilla's Beneteau First 36.7 Selma Star skippered by Sean Mitchell raised the spinnaker before the start and as they proceeded in close company with Fred Kinmonth/Nick Burns Sydney GTS 43 Otonomos Mandrake III, they Chinese gybed and laid the mast down on the water, with the white knuckled crew holding on tight.

Meanwhile Echauz's TP 52 Standard Insurance Centennial III popped the asymmetric kite and flew down the bay to take a commanding lead by the time the exited the bay. Once Hill's Antipodes broke away from the pack, they managed to hit their straps and went charging down the bay in pursuit of Centennial III.

A couple of quick gybes on the 6nm leg to the bay entrance and Fred Kinmonth/Nick Burns Otonomos Mandrake III were in hot pursuit and third to exit the bay. Ray Ordoveza's Excel 53 Karakoa and Bobby Benares Beneteau 44.7 Sabad crossed gybed as they closed in on Grande Island at the entrance to Subic Bay and the battle was just beginning.

Having recovered from the earlier broach, the Subic Sailing team on Selma Star were unharmed and proceeded in a more orderly fashion, with the spinnaker under control. With gusts in the 25 knot range, Michael Raueber's Oceanis 46 Emocean and the two Chinese entries Li Jian's Advance 80 Apsaras and Stephen Wu Shifu's Oceanis 45 Asia Pacific Sailing were taking it carefully under head sails and last to exit the bay.

George Hackett's Mills 43 custom Misty Mountain did not start and Jun Villanueva's failed to repair Bellatrix mast in time.

As they are well on the way down the Luzon coast, the fleet expect a fast race but will still have to claw their way through the wind shadow of the Bataan and Batangas Mountain Ranges plus strong tidal currents in the Verde Island Passage, on both the outward and return legs.

The Regatta Organising Authority is Subic Sailing, under the auspices of the Philippine Sailing Association and in conjunction with Watercraft Ventures, Inc., the Lighthouse Marina Resort (Hotel Accommodation), Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA), Philippine Coast Guard and backed by Tanduay Rhum, Pepsi-Cola, Broadwater Marine, NanoFixit and JellyChip.

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