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Volvo Ocean Race 2017-18

Hong Kong youngsters have potential to compete in Volvo Ocean Race, says Dongfeng star

Chinese sailor Horace Chen imparts his knowledge and shares his experience in the famous around the world race with a group of aspiring Hong Kong sailors at Middle Island

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 24 September, 2017, 7:09pm
UPDATED : Monday, 25 September, 2017, 9:33am

Dongfeng Race Team sailor Horace Chen Jinhao gave a group of young sailing enthusiasts a message during training on Sunday: follow your passion and don’t give up on your dream.

Chen, who made a special stopover in Hong Kong, the site of one of the 12 legs on the 45,000 nautical mile Volvo Ocean Race 2017-18, imparted his knowledge and gave an valuable insight to 20 aspiring sailors in a training session at Middle Island.

Joined by former Dongfeng crew mate Kit Cheng, Hong Kong’s first sailor to take part in the Volvo Ocean Race, the Shenzhen-based Chen told the young sailors – all under the age of 15 – what to expect on the high seas in competition, and if they follow their dream and passion they can one day take part in the world’s most famous round-the-world race.

“We had a sharing session and learned the different scenarios on-board, like how the weather can change,” Chen said.

“When you’re racing, every race counts ... everything counts in the final score. You should never give up and keep going when you are faced with any challenges.”

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Chen said it was hard to convince parents to allow their children to become full-time sailors, knowing the emphasis was on education, but the 25-year-old Chinese sailor said Hong Kong kids can be masters of their own destiny and take up sailing full-time even if their parents don’t allow it at first.

“I always tell their parents it’s safety first and to let their kids follow their dream. Whatever happens on the water, they can be confident on board. I try to convince parents that their kids can gain confidence when they become sailors,” he said.

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Chen was impressed by the local kids’ enthusiasm and by the fact they all had the potential to become good sailors.

“All the kids have the potential to become professional sailors in the future. I could see their passion and if their passion lasts and if they really love this sport, he or she can form a team themselves to represent Hong Kong and compete in the Volvo Ocean Race. This is always possible,” said Chen.

The youngsters are representing Hong Kong in the Optimist Asian & Oceanian Championships to take place at the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club from September 30 to October 7.

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Organised by the Hong Kong Sailing Federation, who are also supporting the first-ever Volvo Ocean Race leg in Hong Kong in January, the Optimist Asian & Oceanian Championships has attracted talented young sailors from 17 countries.

Kit Cheng, who started his career as a 15-year old sailing Optimist dinghy’s in and around Hong Kong, was keen to show the Optimist sailors the potential to make a career and life out of sailing. His hope is that the Volvo Ocean Race will show all of Hong Kong the benefits of sailing.

“This race is so important for local sailors and the development of the professional sailing and yacht racing community. Before Dongfeng I would have never had a chance to sail in the Volvo Ocean Race. I hope that hosting the Volvo Ocean Race in Hong Kong will have the same effect for other sailors,” said Cheng.

Chen, who lives in Shenzhen, is the bowman for the Dongfeng Race Team and has been with Dongfeng since their debut Volvo Ocean Race in 2014-15.

On that occasion, Chen was joined by Cheng, who was on-board Dongfeng for the Abu Dhabi to Sanya leg in 2014-15. That leg was won by Dongfeng in an emotional homecoming for the team’s Chinese sailors.

“I had a dream to see the world with the Volvo Ocean Race and I did it. After I finished the first race, I also had a dream to make sailing popular in my city so I made a sailing training centre,” Chen said.

“When I am not sailing in the Volvo Ocean Race, I am busy teaching. My main passion is teaching sailing to the kids.”

Cheng, who has also taught sailing in both China and Hong Kong, echoed the sentiment: “I tried a lot of different sports when I was young, sailing was very interesting. Most sports are about physical performance but sailing is so much more.

“When you are yacht racing, you have to keep track of a lot of details, the mast, sail trim, weather and what your competitors are doing. You always have to be aware of what is happening now and what is going to happen next.

“There are so many mental and technical factors to consider, but you also need to have physical strength and endurance. Sailing is good training for the mind and helps develop focus and confidence. “For me it is really an infinite sport; there’s always something new to learn,” Cheng said.