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Light at the end of the tunnel in Hong Kong

by Guy Nowell 22 May 2020 05:24 BST
RHKYC Spring Regatta 2019 © Guy Nowell / RHKYC

Last weekend the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club was permitted to conduct racing in Victoria Harbour. The weekend before that, Aberdeen Boat Club went racing on the south side of Hong Kong. This coming weekend the combined RHKYC class fleets will be out on the harbour again, this time for the club’s Spring Regatta, traditionally the closing event of the official racing season, but we suspect that a certain amount of pent-up demand may extend the programme for a while yet.

There are, however, a great many conditions involving who can tie up alongside, or drop/pick up crew and so on. The one that raises eyebrows is the directive that “sailors waiting for a sampan (to ferry out to their mooring) should wait in groups of eight or less, and each group must maintain a distance of 1.5m from the next group.” So: why is it ok for 146 passengers and a driver to squeeze into a double decker bus, or 312 into an MTR carriage, when you can’t have more than eight on a sailing boat (and there’s even a Notice to Competitors about that, with a threat of “disqualification without a hearing for any infringement”)? It’s not really the restrictions that irk – it’s the random application of same by a coterie of desk-wallahs who are completely at sea (pun fully intended). Never mind, let’s go sailing even if the Main Bar closes early to prevent any monster crowds building up after racing, and even if there is no prizegiving tomorrow, ditto. The door is ajar… make the most of it.

We’ve been ‘attending’ lots of webinars and Zoom meetings and presentations recently. Most of them sell themselves well, but turn out to be nothing more than an hour-long live advertisement for… whatever. Stuff that you would normally see in an email and consign to ‘Junk’ without even opening. There are exceptions: just yesterday Martin Redmayne hosted a chat show on behalf of Camper & Nicholson that asked whether “the Asian boating market will change its appetite and attitude to yachting after the coronavirus pandemic?” The answer as delivered by the panellists was a very interesting “yes”. In the last couple of months, people have been using their boats more, partly as an effective way of social distancing, and partly to keep the younger members occupied while not at school. It’s amazing how many times a 12-year old can jump off the coachroof during one afternoon. Ok, so a lot of the talk concerned the sailors’ perennial enemy – stinkpots – but we are being charitable and letting them in on the equation here. Apparently, there are big white-boat owners out there who had never spent a night on board until very recently, but have been converted. Next they are inviting their socially-distanced friends for the whole weekend, and now they are asking the brokers for bigger boats – bigger boat, more guests, same social-distancing?

It’s an ill wind that blows nobody any good, and we are hearing that it is boom time for the dealers. “Boating is the ultimate escape, and the most private way of being safe and secure with your family.” All of a sudden a penny has dropped somewhere along the quayside, and what the floaters and boaters in the Med figured out a long time ago is now being realised in Asia. Well, Hong Kong at any rate.

We have lots of friends who have rediscovered the joys of cruising, and Hong Kong has some truly great cruising to offer. I only have to look out of my office window to know all of a sudden that people are using boats more (except in Singapore, where you get smacked very hard (money + jail) if you as much as look at your boat. Sorry, chaps).

This has to be a good thing, right?

Standing by on 72.

Guy Nowell Asia Editor,

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