The Games wheel turns full circle for Neil Pryde

PUBLISHED : Friday, 08 August, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 08 August, 2008, 12:00am

Though an astute businessman, Neil Pryde (pictured) didn't know the retail price of the sailing equipment which will bear his name at the Olympic windsurfing regatta.

It doesn't matter to him. What matters most for the long-time Hong Kong resident is the wheel has turned full circle.

'Forty years ago, I represented Hong Kong at the Mexico Olympics. Today, I feel just as excited, knowing the windsurfers will be going out in Qingdao on sailboards made by me,' he said.

Well not exactly made by him. But rather by the 4,000 people he employs, mostly in China and Thailand. They have come up with the Neil Pryde RS:X - the windsurfing discipline which has replaced the Mistral Class which had been in use at the past three Olympics.

When the 63 competitors begin the windsurfing event tomorrow, Pryde will be cheering everyone on.

He has given Games organisers all the equipment free of charge - he will get it back once the Olympics are over - a commitment he made when the International Sailing Federation decided in 2004 to replace the ageing Mistral One-design board with the new Neil Pryde RS:X.

'I feel super happy that our design was picked. I have had a strong involvement with the Olympics for a long time. And this is not about making money, it is more a prestige thing,' said Pryde, a well-known name in Hong Kong sailing circles with his boat Hi-Fi.

Last year Neil Pryde Ltd had a turnover of HK$800 million - but the exposure gained from the Olympics will most certainly turn him into a household name, at least among windsurfers.

Pryde, 68, raced in the Flying Dutchman class for Hong Kong - with Peter Gamble - at the 1968 Olympics.

They finished 13th in a field of 30.

'Until San San came along, our result was one of the best in Olympic sailing for Hong Kong,' Pryde said.

He didn't think it would get any better than that. But now he is proud again.