Blow for HK as showpiece scuppered

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 07 August, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 07 August, 2010, 12:00am

Hong Kong's ambitions to stage major events were dealt a blow with the cancellation yesterday of the Louis Vuitton Trophy Hong Kong Regatta in the city's waters.

The regatta should have been held in January 2011 but was scuppered when American, New Zealand and other top racing teams decided to skip the event to compete in America's Cup-related races next year and in 2012.

The Louis Vuitton Trophy was billed as a match-race regatta involving four America's Cup-class boats, with about 10 international teams featuring many of the biggest names in the sport.

The expected high calibre of match racing would have made it a major highlight on the sailing calendar with races in the spectacular setting of Victoria Harbour.

The cancellation of the HK$45 million extravaganza, which had secured up to HK$10 million of government funds, could deal a major blow to the city's ambitions to stage international sports events.

Spokesmen for the government, the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club and Louis Vuitton expressed disappointment.

A spokesman for the club, which would have hosted the event, said talks had been ongoing for the past several weeks to try to salvage the regatta. But it became obvious that, for the teams, competing in various races associated with the America's Cup in 2011 and 2012 was a bigger priority than the Hong Kong race.

'We're still very optimistic and we continue to explore various opportunities. If there is anything we feel is a fit, we're always willing to help,' the club spokesman said.

America's Cup winners, BMW Oracle racing, had expressed interest to the club in holding an America's Cup-related championship event in Asia, and potentially Hong Kong.

The club spokesman said the race course was a stretch of water just south of the former Kai Tak airport site. A race village was planned for Pier 10 alongside the Star Ferry terminal.

'The Louis Vuitton Trophy had the potential to place Hong Kong on the map as a host city for major world-class sailing events,' Warwick Downes, chairman of the club's organising committee, said.

'The club appreciates the tremendous level of government support we have received in this attempt to bring the Louis Vuitton Trophy to Hong Kong. We remain confident that sailing regatta organisers will continue to consider the city and its harbour as a prospective venue in the future.'

Louis Vuitton chairman and chief executive Yves Carcelle added that 'Hong Kong, with its wonderful harbour and city skyline, would have made a superb venue for the Louis Vuitton Trophy and I hope that, in the near future, we can support the staging of an event of this calibre here'.

The event was one of those selected to receive financial support from the government's HK$100 million Mega Events Fund. Up to HK$10 million was approved for the sailing showpiece although no money had changed hands as the races were only in the planning stages.

The club officially notified the government early this week that the event was cancelled, although it first learned that there might be some problems several weeks ago.

Hong Kong missed out on the Volvo Ocean Race in January last year when the boats bypassed Hong Kong for Singapore and Qingdao.