Yacht Club bids to host top race

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 26 August, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 26 August, 2009, 12:00am

It's the Formula One of yachting, and Hong Kong wants a piece of it.

The Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club hopes to bring America's Cup-class racing to Victoria Harbour. And the government, having lost to Singapore and Qingdao the chance to host a leg of the world's other top-notch yachting event, the 2008-09 Volvo Ocean Race, is backing it.

With the America's Cup having descended into farce with holder Alinghi and challenger Oracle embroiled in a messy legal dispute ahead of their showdown in February in Dubai, the Louis Vuitton World Series has been conceived to give the rest of the world a chance to compete in America's Cup-class yachts.

The Yacht Club has not said how much it would cost to stage the event but has applied for help from the government's Mega Events Fund towards the cost of hosting a seven-day World Series regatta in November next year. A person with knowledge of the club's application said it was for HK$10 million.

Sailing superpowers New Zealand and the United States have agreed to compete in the World Series, and the club is planning to enter a joint Hong Kong-mainland team.

The regatta, which would be the biggest sailing race held in Hong Kong, meets the requirements of the HK$100 million fund, which include attracting visitors to the city and bringing economic benefits.

Chan Pak-ling, the Yacht Club's public relations and communications manager, said one of the prerequisites for applying the fund was to have attendance of at least 10,000 for the regatta. The club is confident thousands of Hongkongers would turn out. It has proposed the regatta village be set up at Central's Pier 10, now under construction on reclaimed land in front of City Hall.

'This is like the Formula One of yachting and it is an honour for Hong Kong to host such a race,' Ms Chan said. 'New Zealand and the United States have already agreed to come with their top sailors, who have America's Cup experience.' The club was hoping teams from Australia, South Africa, Italy, France and Britain would also take part, she said.

A senior Home Affairs Bureau official with responsibility for sport said the government welcomed the proposal as an opportunity to host world-class competition. 'We are still studying the proposal, but a race like the America's Cup in Hong Kong has plenty of merit,' he said.

The club's funding application will be assessed next month.