Delivery set to usher in a glorious new era

PUBLISHED : Monday, 09 July, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 09 July, 2007, 12:00am

A maiden voyage in Victoria Harbour yesterday perfectly epitomised the mainland's new spirit of yachting.

The short cruise followed the delivery of three racing yachts to representatives of the China Cup International Regatta at the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club in Causeway Bay.

The CCIR will be held from October 19-21 in Daya Bay, Shenzhen, and these three Beneteau First 40.7 (12-metre) sloops are the first instalment in a planned fleet of 10. It will be a landmark event for the sport on the mainland, marking the start of one-design yacht racing and the first-ever international regatta.

'This will be a truly international regatta,' said Mike Simpson, owner of yacht dealers Simpson Marine (Asian regional importers of the Beneteau yachts), yesterday.

Teams from New Zealand, Britain, Japan, Brazil and Australia will crew the new boats in October.

'It's an unusual step for such yachts to be offered to the crews with no charter fee,' said Simpson. 'Usually, yachts of this calibre would have to be chartered at considerable expense.'

Around 100 crews from 16 countries are expected to enter the regatta, at the Longcheer Yacht Club. The CCIR will have five classes, including the Beneteau one-design class.

Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club vice-commodore Jimmy Farquhar said: 'We are really happy to participate in this regatta and have been working with China for three years to make it happen. Our club is organising the notice of race, the race instructions and on-water management.'

The CCIR's organising committee will invest 200-300 million yuan within three years in race organising, facility construction, personnel training, and youth training to groom future Chinese international sailors.

The Beneteau First 40.7s delivered yesterday are Bruce Farr-designed, built in France, have deck hardware from America and a sail wardrobe made by a Hong Kong firm.

Former Commodore of the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club, Frank Pong, who owns several top racing yachts, has been heading to Longcheer twice a month with his crews since July 2006 to help train Chinese sailors.

'It is great to see yacht racing blossoming in China. The will is there, so are the financial resources and it's novel, too. It is just crew that are in short supply. In the mid 1990s I gave a 12m Castro-designed sloop to the Chinese Yachting Association, called China Number 1, which still sails with the sail number CHN 1,' he said.

'The fact that China had its first ever entry into the America's Cup in Valencia this year and that the 2008 Olympic sailing is set for Qingdao in 2008 emphasises the growth.'