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Sailing Summary – Asia 2021

by Guy Nowell 31 Dec 2021 05:56 GMT
China Coast Regatta 2021 © RHKYC/ Guy Nowell

Once again it’s been a ‘different’ year. In Hong Kong sailing activities have returned to something close to normal. The Club events take place, but prizegiving parties or ceremonies are not allowed, as dictated by the Marine Dept in the race permits that they issue. The Aberdeen Boat Club, Hebe Haven Yacht Club, and Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club have all held full programmes of harbour, cans, and coastal racing.

Under the ever-present spectre of Covid it’s the international events that have suffered. Hong Kong exercises some of the most draconian quarantine regulations in the world – up to 21 days depending on point of origin – which means that any sailor arriving from overseas for a race or regatta would need to add three weeks and a huge expense to their trip schedule. Without the people, there’s no event, so regattas like Hong Kong Raceweek get cancelled. Races like the Rolex China Sea Race and Hong Kong to Vietnam Race got scratched too – partly for the attendance reason, and also because the destination is in a different country that may not be happy to receive an incoming fleet of racing boats. We have just heard that the Rolex China Sea Race 2022 has been cancelled, too.

In Hong Kong, we lost HK Raceweek in both 2020 and 2021. This is Asia’s biggest dinghy regatta, and carries status as a ranking regatta in Asia, so that was quite a blow. We lost the HK InterSchools Sailing Festival – twice – because a large number of school age youngsters out in the open air was deemed to be Not A Good Thing (unlike bus queues, shopping malls, and public transport).

In Singapore, sailing and boating was substantially curtailed in 2020, but there are signs of life once again. A vibrant racing programme remains in place at Changi Sailing Club, with regular series and twilight races. For those with international intent, it’s easy enough to depart, but very complicated to return with quarantine and heavy testing required for all yachts. Quick cruising weekends to Nongsa Point and the Riau Archipelago (Indonesia) are still too difficult for yachties hoping to escape the big smoke.

Malaysia lost the Raja Muda Selangor International Regatta in 2020, but returned with a somewhat truncated ‘Malaysian residents only’ affair this year. The Royal Langkawi International Regatta was ‘off sick’ in January 2021 and has not shown any signs of recovery for 2022. The Phuket King’s Cup, an unfailing marker in the calendar since 1987, coughed in 2020, and missed 2021 as well.

All in all, it’s a pretty severe death toll, but there were survivors. There was the Olympics, of course, which the pessimists among us thought would never happen. Well, it did, and there wasn’t a massive outbreak of C-19 around the world as a result. Restrictions were, however, pretty severe – too severe to be sustainable on a longer-term basis. Sail-World’s New Zealand Editor, Richard Gladwell, was there and estimates he was subjected to more than 18 Covid tests in Japan and NZ in the space of 45 days during the summer. Nobody wants to put up with that, and never mind the cost!

In Thailand, the Bay Regatta, aka “the party that moves around”, survived 2020 and will run again in January 2022. This is largely because it is effectively a domestic event rather than an ‘international’ one. If you fancy some sailing in the fabulous scenery all around Phang Nga Bay, most travellers can get into Thailand relatively easily, if not actually quarantine-free. Of course, the deal-breaker is getting home again, afterwards.

Oman seemed to have no trouble running international events during 2021: two vaccinations and a negative PCR test after three days in a hotel got you into the 2021 Asian Windsurfing Championships, the 2021 Mussanah Open Championship (an Olympic qualifying event), the 2021 Asian 49er & 49erFX Championships, 2021 49er, 49erFx & Nacra17 Worlds, the 2021 Youth Sailing World Championships, and the ILCA 6 Worlds.

A friend posted his New Year Wish List online today. It was asking our ‘leaders’ to “smarten up, co-operate, and make a global plan that is implemented and executed professionally.” Current response to Covid in Asia continues to be unco-ordinated and frequently illogical. If I were to deliver a yacht from Phuket to Australia, and spent 30+ days at sea, never touching land and arriving healthy, then surely there’s no need for quarantine upon arrival, right? Hmm… fat chance!

Wishing you and yours all good health in 2022 (a wish that seems more apposite than ever these days). Along with blue skies and a following breeze, we are also wishing for the de-compartmentalisation of Asia, and the return of some sensible freedom of movement. But we are not holding our collective breath!

Standing by on 72.

Guy Nowell, Asia Editor.

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