‘We want it back,’ says Carrie Lam, but will the Volvo Ocean Race fleet drop anchor in Hong Kong again next time around?
The Hong Kong government made clear that they would like for the fleet to return to the city during the next edition, but no decision has been made by race organisers yet
The Volvo Ocean Race has “exceeded expectations” in its stopover in Hong Kong, with the sound of “we want it back” coming from the most important mouthpiece – the government.
As the Volvo Race Village was being dismantled at the Kai Tak Runway Park on Thursday, race organisers breathed a sigh of relief that Hong Kong responded to the event, with more than 100,000 people attending over the 15 days.
Despite the tragic start when a fisherman died in a collision with one of the boats, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor and her team gave the event the thumbs up, saying “We want it back”.
Event organisers Mayo & Calder said they were “open to discussions for future editions” of the round-the-world race returning to Hong Kong.
That could be in two years or four years, avoiding a clash with the America’s Cup which will be held in Auckland, New Zealand, in 2021.
“In hosting the Hong Kong stopover, we had two objectives in mind,” said Permanent Secretary for Home Affairs Betty Fung Ching Suk-yee.
“The first was to have a major sports event, especially a new one, to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the establishment of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region in 2017, and second was to ride on the Volvo Ocean Race to enhance Hong Kong’s position as a sports event capital in Asia.”
“I’m glad to say we have achieved both objectives brilliantly,” she said.
Stopover port director Grant Calder, of event agency Mayo & Calder, said: “We are absolutely delighted with the turnout. It’s the race’s first ever visit to the city and the support from the whole community has exceeded all expectations, as has the feedback we’ve received.
“I’m sure that everyone who saw the boats racing in the Harbour would agree there is no better backdrop in the world for the Volvo Ocean Race and we all look forward to seeing what opportunities lie ahead with future editions of the race and Hong Kong,” he said.
The fairy-tale victory of Hong Kong boat Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag leading the fleet into its home port turned into a nightmare for organisers when Vestas 11th Hour Racing was involved in a collision with a fishing boat off the coast.
“It shook a lot of people,” said one of the organisers, as Vestas withdrew from all activities in Hong Kong, then abandoned the short journey up to Guangzhou on Thursday morning, and leg six to Auckland next week.
Scallywag skipper David Witt dreams of a day when Victoria Harbour will be festooned in sails.
“It’s been massive,” said Hong Kong-based Witt. “Having the chief executive of Hong Kong visit us and so actively support the race will help with the image that sailing is for everybody and that is one of the things we’ve been trying to do.
“It’s been a fairy tale. Sailing is a great sport and we want to get kids out on the water and make Victoria Harbour their backyard.”
Mapfre skipper Xabi Fernández, whose yacht is leading the fleet, said Hong Kong laid out the red carpet.
“To come into this city is amazing,” said Fernández. “We were very tired when we arrived but have had a great rest here, had good food and fun.
“The race village has been fantastic as has the sailing here, around the island and in the harbour. It has been pretty much perfect.”
The boats will return to Hong Kong from Guangzhou next Tuesday and then leave for Auckland on Wednesday.