Louis Vuitton Trophy sets HK race date

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 06 February, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 06 February, 2010, 12:00am

The dates have been set and America's Cup-class match racing will finally come to Hong Kong after the organisers of the Louis Vuitton Trophy disclosed that the event, which will cost millions of dollars to stage, will be held next year - from January 9 to 23 - in Victoria Harbour.

Between eight and 10 of the best sailing teams in the world will take part in the inaugural Louis Vuitton Trophy Hong Kong Regatta, which has been scheduled for January as the month is believed to offer the best racing conditions in the harbour.

'The Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club will have the very great honour of hosting Asia's first Louis Vuitton Trophy,' Warwick Downes, RHKYC commodore, said yesterday.

The race course will be set on the stretch of water just to the south of the now disused Kai Tak airport, and the race village is planned for Pier 10 alongside the Star Ferry terminal.

Organisers will have at least four hi-tech boats, all equalised to make the sailing even, with teams assigned a different boat each day. Data has shown that the prevailing winds in Victoria Harbour in January are from the east at between 12 to 15 knots.

'This event, one of the pinnacles on the yachting calendar, will demonstrate that Hong Kong is an ideal venue for major international sailing events,' Downes said.

The novel event could see some of the biggest names in sailing like New Zealander Brad Butterworth, who will skipper Swiss defender Alinghi when the America's Cup gets under way on Monday in Valencia, or his countryman Russell Coutts, who will be at the helm of challenger Oracle.

The regatta will feature an eight or 10-team field competing in the shared yachts in a round-robin format, with two finalists going head to head to determine the winner. There will be four to six races each day.

The event is being backed by the Hong Kong government's Mega Events Fund, set up last year to promote the city as a major travel destination for sports and arts and culture.

'The races will not only benefit the sailing community here but will also deliver a positive economic impact to Hong Kong,' Downes said.

'With these boats and our spectacular harbour beamed around the world daily for the two weeks of racing, I can't think of a better way to showcase Brand Hong Kong internationally.'

The yacht race was one of two sporting events - the other being the Hong Kong Tennis Classic - to receive handouts from the government's HK$100 million Mega Events Fund from the first round of applications last year.

It is believed the fund has approved HK$10 million for the sailing showpiece.

The total cost of staging the entire regatta - seven days of pre-regatta training plus 14 competition days - is expected to set organisers back by a cool HK$45 million. Most of the cost is expected to be borne by the sponsors.

Karl Kwok, president of the Hong Kong Sailing Federation and one of Asia's better-known international sailors, was grateful for the support from the government.

Kwok said: 'Besides the economic benefits this event will bring to Hong Kong, the experiences and actions of the high-calibre sailors competing here will more than inspire our local sailing community and fans, helping to position the city on the world sailing map.'