Pioneer Pat set to chart new waters

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 04 December, 1994, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 04 December, 1994, 12:00am

AFTER nearly 50 years of sailing the waters of Hong Kong, Pat Loseby says with a bit of sadness in her voice that she thinks she'll have to give up the sport that consumed a good part of her life.

Loseby, a legendary figure among the local yachting set, said she most likely will give up sailing when she returns to live in England after more than 60 years in Hong Kong. Although her departure is not imminent, she said she would be going back to England before the 1997 takeover.

'I won't be staying here with the handover coming up,' said Loseby who holds the special honour of vice-patron at the RHKYC. 'I'm on my own here and I have a lot of friends in England and Spain. I don't have any relatives here other than a cousin and I really wouldn't want to become ill here in Hong Kong while I'm on my own.

'I have a house in West Sussex [Midhurst] and I'll be within an hour's drive of the sea where I have some friends with boats who can take me sailing.' A pioneering figure in Hong Kong both on and off the water, Loseby, who sails in the Dragon class with her boat Hoi Lung (Sea Dragon), will always hold the special distinction of being the territory's first female solicitor. Following in her father's footsteps - she would eventually take over his firm - Loseby was surprised that, in a male dominated society, her call to the bar didn't cause much of a stir.

When she joined the RHKYC in the late 1940s women were only permitted to join as lady subscribers but not full members. They were allowed to sail and own boats but not sit on the club's committees other than the house committee. Loseby changed all that in 1977.

'It didn't bother me at the time, but later on when I really got into sailing, I saw no reason why we shouldn't be members. But the men didn't want us as members. You could call it a battle - sort of a friendly battle, but we got the membership rules changed. To get in [to the RHKYC] you had to display your knowledge of sailing and if you weren't interested in all that you could come in as a social member.' Loseby, who grew up in a house on Chatham Street, Kowloon, where her veterinarian mother ran a dog's home, said she sailed a few times as a child, but became hooked on the sport when her cousin bought a boat in 1940.

'I had become rather interested in sailing and I thought this was something I would enjoy. My cousin said she'd teach me when I finish my schooling, but then the war came and I had to wait.' Spending the war years with her mother in Australia, South Africa and England, Loseby came back to the territory in December, 1946, to find her house looted and her cousin's boat long gone.

'Most of the boats disappeared. They were either sunk or torn apart for firewood and the bits were sold off.' Renewing her interest in sailing, Loseby said she learned by going out with anybody that would take her.

After crewing for other people, it wasn't until 1956 when she bought her A-16 Dragon (a 29 foot, three-person day racer) that Loseby started serious competition. She competed in regattas in Macau, the Philippines, Australia, Canada and Denmark. Loseby says nothing beats the thrill of competition, as opposed to pleasure cruising.

'It's like anything. It's a sport and when you just go cruising it's just nice. But if your putting yourself against somebody else, it's far more interesting.' On the state of Hong Kong racing these days compared to when she first started, Loseby said the territory is in good shape for the future. She is particularly happy about the state of the junior programmes where the sport continues to attract young sailors.

'I've noticed the juniors are coming up earlier in age and that's a good thing. If they learn early, they understand what is involved in sailing. Middle Island is a good place for the juniors to learn.'