Villagers feed hungry 'shipwrecked' windsurfer

PUBLISHED : Monday, 10 November, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 10 November, 2008, 12:00am

When an exhausted windsurfer from Shenzhen and his broken board washed up on a Sai Kung beach on Saturday after a six-hour ordeal at the whims of the wind and current, he was so hungry he wolfed down cakes offered by surprised villagers - and later a loaf of bread at a police station.

As villagers were tending their 'shipwrecked' sailor, police, alerted by a 9pm phone call from the man's wife in Shenzhen, were searching Mirs Bay near Ping Chau for him.

Hongkonger Sherman Kwan Yuek-yin and a friend had set out from Jin Sha Bay in Nan Ao, Shenzhen, at about 3pm, planning to windsurf to Da Mei Sha and back while his wife and children enjoyed an afternoon on the beach.

Mr Kwan, relating his ordeal yesterday, said the pair became separated soon after the journey began.

A 47-year-old veteran windsurfer, Mr Kwan made a solo landfall at Da Mei Sha at about 5pm. Soon after he began the return journey the wind strengthened and the sea became choppy. His situation deteriorated dramatically when the universal joint, which connects the sail to the board, broke, leaving Mr Kwan at the mercy of the winds and currents.

Mr Kwan, a former Cathay Pacific ground staff member, lay down on the board and tried to propel himself with hand strokes. When exhaustion took hold he lay still on the board, riding waves of up to 3 metres, and let the wind and current carry him.

He was washed southwards into Hong Kong waters and finally landed near Hoi Ha village, six hours and 20km from where he started the return journey. Police eventually made contact with him at 11.40pm.

'I reserved my strength because I didn't know how long I would be floating,' Mr Kwan said. 'Later I raised the sail with my hands so I would float faster... I avoided getting wet, as your reactions become slower if your head is wet in the wind.'

Mr Kwan, who had no identity documents with him, was taken to an immigration office in Central, where he was joined by his wife.

A keen windsurfer since the 1980s, Mr Kwan moved 10 years ago with his mainland wife and three children to Shenzhen, where he has a trading business.

He said he had more time to windsurf these days because his business was experiencing a slowdown because of the economic crisis.