Words by Dutchman Bart Kimman
True, the sheer number of powerboats back up this latter impression, but big sailboat cruising and racing are developing strongly too, and Asian owners are prepared to showcase their campaigns to attract others to the game. Herewith some stellar examples of this trend.
Shortly after it was announced that the Volvo Ocean Race would stop over in Hong Kong, a partly local Hong Kong tycoon stepped forward to announce his challenge in this gruelling ocean race under Hong Kong colours. The fifth entry to the 2017-18 edition of the Volvo Ocean Race will sail under the name Team Sun Hung Kai – Scallywag and is backed by Lee Seng Huang. His intentions are to promote competitive sailing in Asia and build a long-lasting youth sailing legacy in the region.
The campaign will showcase world class offshore racing in Hong Kong and China. Lee purchased the 100’ Scallywag in Australia (previously Ragamuffin) and in doing so he has teamed up with Australian professional David Witt, who competed in the 1997-98 Volvo Ocean Race. Hong Kong’s most successful ocean racing sailor is entrepreneur and ex-Commodore of RHKYC Karl Kwok, with his string of state of the art yachts, all called Beau Geste Team Beau Geste currently races two yachts, the fiercely competitive Botin 80 suitable to compete in ocean racing classics such as Sydney-Hobart, and the superfast TP52 for round the cans racing.
Kwok teamed up long ago with America’s Cup veteran Gavin Brady and that relationship has held together. With star-studded crews, they have won most of the big ocean races and international yachting regattas around the world. After winning the 1997 Sydney-Hobart overall, Kwok is back with the Botin 80 to compete in the 2017 edition of that event, showing once more Hong Kong’s prowess in the ocean racing scene.
Sam Chan, a long-standing member Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club, is a keen competitor in the Asian circuit with his TP52 Free Fire, and is more on than off the podium. His team has a mix of professional and amateur sailors, and Sam still hones his skills in a Flying Fifteen in local Hong Kong harbour racing.
Frank Pong, also an ex-commodore of RHKYC, has owned a string of yachts all called Jelik. He has dominated Hong Kong and regional racing for some 35 years and won more line honours than anyone in Hong Kong.
Although committed to a professional racing team, Frank always helms his yacht himself. Apart from being a legendary offshore sailor, he has spent a lifetime promoting the sport of sailing in Hong Kong and China.
Many young sailors have participated in Pong’s “sailing academy” giving them confidence to move on as an amateur or professional sailor. The China Cup is now one of the major regatta events in China, and the only one with a truly international character. Pong’s strong support of this regatta has lifted the event to a “must do” for many teams around the world.
Grassroot sailing needs the support of yacht clubs and sailing centres, which in turn require support of yachtsman and yachtswomen who contribute one way or the other to the training of young sailors.
It is very encouraging to see this process developing in most countries in Asia, thanks to the yacht owners and the endless numbers of volunteers who spend their spare time organising, teaching, coaching and helping new generations of sailors find their feet. This of course bodes well for the development of the yacht industry in Asia. From racing yachts to global cruising yachts to super sailboats, a strong demand is developing.
Large yachts like the iconic 80m Maltese Falcon are actually much in demand by Asian charterers. The yards of New Zealand, Italy and the Netherlands have built at least 15 super sailboats for Asian clients, and many more are involved in resales. The 81m Dijkstra-design and Royal Huisman-built schooner, in which I have been involved, will be delivered to an Asian owner in 2020.
I am writing this column to meet Yacht Style’s deadline as Monaco Yacht. Show is about to begin. Who knows? Perhaps later this year other super sailboats will be on the drawing boards or on the slips.
Dutchman Bart Kimman is Hong Kong based since 1985. Following a successful finance career, he started brokerage firm Asia Yacht Services in 2004, and merged with Northrop & Johnson in 2008 to become the first global yacht brokerage in Asia; active in ten countries and focusing on the sale and charter of larger yachts.
For more information, please visit Northrop & Johnson or get in touch with [email protected].