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Volvo Ocean Race 2017-18

Hong Kong wheelchair sailor Foo inspired by Volvo Ocean Race stars as city puts out welcome mat for incoming fleet

Asian Paralympic Games medallist excited about Hong Kong stopover as organisers open race village for public

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 17 January, 2018, 7:53pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 18 January, 2018, 11:12am

The “Everest of racing” is nearing its inaugural Hong Kong stopover and boats are expected to touch base at Volvo Ocean Race Festival at Kai Tak Runway Park this weekend.

With Hong Kong team Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag leading this leg of the race, Hong Kong Paralympic sailor Foo Yuen-wai will be one of many on hand to greet the incoming sailors.

“Wow, it’s an honour to be a part of all this,” said Foo, the 2014 Asian Paralympic Games bronze medallist who will be representing Sailability Hong Kong, an organisation that introduces sailing to disabled people.

“Seeing them compete at such a high-level international tournament is such a great opportunity. They are my role models; we are here to watch and learn. They motivate me to push myself even more.”

Festival highlights include The Globe, a cinematic experience giving insight into the hectic life at sea; the Race Boat Experience, a dissected full-size boat for visitors to explore; and the Grinding Challenge, a chance for those who dare to experience the gruelling task of raising and trimming the sails of a boat.

The race’s director of operations, Peter Ansell, hopes the festival will bring together sailing fans, old and new, so as to create a melting pot of cultures – just like the city itself.

“We want to attract a whole new audience to crawl through the race boat experience – get a feel for what it’s actually like – and maybe give the Optimist dinghy a go on the water or see how difficult grinding is,” he said.

The10-storey-high boats will be moored next to the runway and interact with competing and local crews at the team bases and the Sailing Plaza.

Cantopop stars such as Sammi Cheng and Gin Lee will perform on Friday week, with traditional Chinese opera and lion dances at the heart of the festival.

Hong Kong Secretary for Home Affairs Lau Kong-wah said: “We are proud to play hosts as a stopover city and I am really eager to see the seven teams in our iconic Victoria Harbour,” said Lau.

“Their presence in our own waters will reinforce Hong Kong’s status as a centre for international sporting events. The race’s Hong Kong stopover is awarded M-mark status by our major sports events committee and we aim to share the excitement with our people. There is free admission for all during the festival and quite a few events to try.”

The seven boats will race for extra points in an In-Port Race and Around Hong Kong Island Race.

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‘Don’t say no because it’s difficult’: disabled Hong Kong sailor making waves and making history

For Foo, the added attention is the perfect opportunity to bring sailing to the forefront of Hong Kong sports.

“I hope people can get to know sailing a bit more. The sport is good for our physical and mental health and harmonises the people taking part.

“Despite sitting in a wheelchair, I’m able to sail. It just shows that you can do anything if you believe in yourself,” said Foo, who was the first competitor in a wheelchair to complete the 2017 Round the Island Race – he finished a remarkable 7th out of 230.

The boats will remain in Hong Kong until the end of the month, before setting off to Auckland, New Zealand on February 7.