'Formula One of Sailing' hits harbour

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 21 November, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 21 November, 2009, 12:00am

The promotional material has been heralding the Extreme Sailing Series Asia as the 'Formula One of Sailing' but Tan Wearn Haw paints a different picture.

The Chinese-Singaporean sailor was asked yesterday to introduce the sport to the city right before the series took to Victoria Harbour for the first time, and Tan was direct: 'Think ... of those beach catamarans you hire when you're away on holidays ... Now think of those ... on steroids.'

He was not kidding.

The series lit up the harbour yesterday, with six 40-foot catamarans scything through the swell powered by blustering 15- to 18-knot winds - that's 30km/h for landlubbers - and they were being guided by the supreme skills of some of the world's finest sailors.

Tan, who sailed at the Sydney Olympics and was part of the China Team crew, said sailing the catamarans, which reach top speeds of more than 60km/h, was 'a challenge'.

'There's nothing like it,' he said. 'And seeing them zipping through Hong Kong is an incredible sight.'

The catamarans are also preparing to tackle the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club's annual Around the Island Race tomorrow and no one is questioning whether they will break the race record of two hours, 44 minutes and 37 seconds - but by how much.

Double Olympic gold medallist Shirley Robertson was here to skipper Rumbo Almeria and said she could not wait to see how fast the boats would go.

'It's like driving a really fast car on a tiny track, and then taking it out on to the open road,'' she said. 'I can't wait.'

The series takes to the harbour again from 10am this morning before the boats head out with the Around the Island fleet at 9.40am tomorrow.