Sun Hung Kai tycoon Lee Seng Huang to fly the flag for Hong Kong in Volvo round-the-world race

Scallywag crew, skippered by David Witt, will take part in one of sailing’s most prestigious events – which visits Hong Kong in 2018

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 18 May, 2017, 11:28am
UPDATED : Thursday, 18 May, 2017, 10:21pm

Hong Kong will have a yacht in the 2017-18 edition of the prestigious Volvo Ocean Race, it was confirmed on Thursday.

Lee Seng Huang, executive chairman of Sun Hung Kai & Co, will run the crew from his supermaxi Scallywag in the round-the-world race, considered one of the most challenging events in sailing.

Hong Kong will be a host city in the event, held every three years, for the first time early next year.

“This campaign will showcase world class competitive offshore sailing in Hong Kong and China with the first time stopovers for the Volvo Race in Hong Kong and Guangzhou. I have every confidence that Team Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag will make Hong Kong proud,” said Lee in a statement issued by organisers.

He hopes the campaign can “promote competitive sailing in Asia and build a long-lasting youth sailing legacy in the region”.

In an interview with the SCMP in January, Lee described how he developed a fascination with sailing growing up in Sydney near the start line of the famed Sydney-Hobart Race. He described watching the yachts as “an expensive curiosity”.

When renowned Australian sailor Syd Fischer decided to retire and sell his 100-foot yacht Ragamuffin – third in the Sydney-Hobart in 2014 and second in 2015 – Lee stepped in to take over, renaming it Scallywag at the suggestion of his daughter.

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Keeping the same crew, the boat has set numerous speed records from its HK base, including a new landmark in the Hong Kong to Hainan race (23 hours, 31 minutes and 52 seconds), third place in the 2016 Sydney-Hobart and most recently smashing the record in the San Fernando Race from Hong Kong to the Philippines by more than 15 hours (34:27.15)

In the Volvo Ocean Race, the crew will race a Volvo Ocean 65, skippered by Scallywag captain David Witt, the Australian who has raced Sydney-Hobart more than 20 times and who last competed in the Volvo race in 1997-98.

“This is a fantastic opportunity for the Scallywag team to represent Hong Kong on a truly global stage,” said Witt in the statement.

“With the race returning to a more traditional route and competing in One Design yachts, we feel that we are capable of achieving something that has been a life-long personal dream.”

The other confirmed entries so far are team AkzoNobel (skippered by Simeon Tienpont, Netherlands), China’s Dongfeng Race Team (Charles Caudrelier, France), Mapfre (Xabi Fernandez, Spain) and Vestas 11th Hour Racing (Charlie Enright, USA).

The race will start from Alicante on 22 October, with the fleet capped at eight Ocean 65 yachts.

Teams will cover a total of 46,000 nautical miles stopping at 12 host cities – including Hong Kong in early 2018 – and finishes in The Hague at the end of June.

“We are delighted that Hong Kong will be represented by a syndicate for the first time, especially as it comes during the first ever Volvo Ocean Race to feature Hong Kong as a leg,” said Richard Mason, chief operating officer of the race.

“With a fast yacht, skippered by an experienced captain and the support of Mr Lee, Scallywag promises to be competitive and we are confident that they will be well supported by the public during their historic stopover in Hong Kong.

A series of races will be held in and around Hong Kong during the stopover including the competition race, a Victoria Harbour race and an Around the Island race.

The boats will be moored at Kai Tak Runway Park, which will be the home of the Volvo Ocean Race Festival, a 15-day carnival that will be free to the public.