Harbour watchdog backs yacht club's proposal for racing facilities

Harbourfront Commission supports plan for facilities to host international races and provide a permanent home for the Maritime Museum

PUBLISHED : Monday, 26 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 26 November, 2012, 4:23am

A harbour watchdog has backed a proposal to make room on the harbourfront for an international yacht race village and a permanent site for the Maritime Museum in Causeway Bay.

The Harbourfront Commission hopes the government will factor in such facilities in its work on the Central-Wan Chai Bypass and Island Eastern Corridor Link before it is too late.

The proposal, put forward by the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club this month, is expected to attract international yacht races like Volvo Ocean Race and America's Cup World Series at the former public cargo handling area next to the club. It involves a hectare of land and a water area of about two hectares.

The water area, with additional breakwaters, would feature international boat shows and provide a floating stage for cultural performances, while the land would be used for small-scale shopping and dining facilities, a permanent site for the Maritime Museum and a possible stop for water taxis.

The museum has moved from Stanley and will reopen at Pier 8 in Central in January.

Although the proposal was well-received by the commission, it presents two challenges: it involves a reclamation for a permanent breakwater of about 470 square metres, and the ideas were only proposed after tunnel construction works in the area were tendered.

Adding the breakwater involves the harbour protection ordinance, which requires that the Legislative Council agrees a reclamation is necessary and in the public interest.

Regarding tunnel work, the club said contractors needed to be instructed now to provide flexibility for future facilities - such as including a deeper seabed, public access and basic utilities like water, power and sewage systems, or risk incurring extra costs and delays later.

"The proposal has merits and was well received by our members," commission chairman Nicholas Brooke said. "We hope the government will plan ahead and allow flexibility for future facilities."

Brooke said the Planning Department would look at the feasibility of the proposal in its study introducing water recreation and open-air dining facilities to enhance the new waterfront in Wan Chai and Causeway Bay.

Roger Eastham, the club's marine services manager, said: "Our concern is the development will be made without consideration of these facilities."

Eastham said international organisations were genuinely interested in holding yacht races in the city but were discouraged by the lack of basic waterfront facilities, such as space for a viewing arena, a stage and electricity.

The club would take this opportunity to dispel the perception that sailing is only for the rich. "We just want to improve the waterfront from cultural, leisure and sport perspectives. It's not something we want to own or operate," Eastham said.