Thu, May 02, 2002 - Page 16 News List

It's plain sailing all the way for Taiwan

BEAUTIFUL BRINY `Cocorin' was the first boat home in the only sailing race that yachtsmen from Taiwan can enter, due to security restrictions set over 50 years ago

By David Frazier  /  STAFF REPORTER

Motovation was manned by an all-Taiwan crew and skippered by Pan Wei-hua, who learned sailing from Cocorin owner Shikina and her navigator, Kiyoshi Chinen.

Pan first came into contact with the two master sailors in the late 1990s while studying in Okinawa. On one voyage, the three of them sailed took the custom racer up to a blistering 25 knots (46kph) during a spell of severe weather between Japan and South Korea, according to Pan.

The race began Tuesday in Yonaguni at 4pm, which is only 111km due east of Taiwan, but separated by an international border and in a different time zone.

The race route was longer, however, as it involved first circumnavigating Yonaguni before steering a west by southwesterly course to Hualien.

The prestart was a mosh of fierce tacking and jibing as boats tried to time the crossing of starting line, which was demarcated by one end of the Yonaguni harbor and a large ferry boat that was on hand for the event.

Seas were calm and and the southeast winds were mild, making for ideal sailing conditions.

By the time the boats had completed the eastward journey of around 18.52km along Yonaguni's north shore, Cocorin had taken a decisive lead.

With the remainder of the fleet led by Excelsior and Lequios, another Okinawan boat named after the old Portuguese for Ryukyu. Lequios was third into Hualien and second in Class 1.

Though the order remained constant through the night, Cocorin stretched its lead.

But as the yacht neared eastern Taiwan in the predawn, the wind died down and shifted to the south, making for slow progress and several tacks in attempts to regain the wind.

Strong northbound currents close to shore also complicated the sailing and gave other boats a chance to close the gap.

In Hualien harbor, the sailboats tied up across the harbor from Panamanian-registered freighters and gravel boats.

Government officials provided a warm welcome, and there was a special customs service offering temporary visas for all of the race participants.

As nine of the 11 boats were Japanese, formalities were also conducted in that language. Meanwhile, local news crews approached the sailboats, some asking where the boats had sailed from.

The yachts were all set to leave Hualien today.

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