Hong Kong sailors and windsurfers are agog with interest and excitement at the prospect of the popular Around the (Hong Kong) Island Race being reinstated in the coming 2003-2004 racing calendar.
Dr Patrick HO, Secretary for Home Affairs, expressed repeatedly his interest in creating large sports event for Hong Kong. In response, the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club proposed to relaunch a proper Round the Island Race. While discussion started with the relevant Government departments under the Home Affairs Bureau's co-ordination, the event is included in the government's 'Re-launch of Hong Kong' programme to combat the downturn in fortunes arising from recent world events and the outbreak of Sars in the region; using the race to attract major sporting events to the country. The Yacht Club's event chairman, Mr. Lowell Chang, believes that the annual Around The Island Race has potential to boost the tourism industry with its ability to showcase the Harbour in a uniquely colourful and exciting way as well as acting as a confidence showpiece by demonstrating that Hong Kong is 'alive and well and ready for some competitive business and sport'.
To reinforce this fact and to spice-up the competition, invitations from Dr. Patrick Ho have been issued to a dozen or more world famous sailing stars and celebrities to come to Hong Kong, with or without their equally famous racing yachts, to lend support to the 'Re-launch' programme by participating in the race. Mr. Ho stated that, "not only will you find racing in the scenic Victoria Harbour an exhilarating experience, you will also be able to see and feel for yourself the hospitality, efficiency and dynamism Hong Kong is renowned for".
The names of the stars are not being disclosed just yet pending their response and any possible sponsorship deals the organisers may be able to negotiate to defray their costs.
"In addition to the presence of the hot-shot sailors being great for the race",
Mr. Chang said, "the media opportunities arising from the event are boundless. With broadcast time on overseas television being organised to show highlights of the race, the confidence and vibrancy of Hong Kong and its people will surely shine through, dispelling any lingering doubts or spectres of Sars."
He has also been arguing the benefits of allowing the sailing spectacle to return as a complete anti-clockwise circumnavigation of Hong Kong island instead of being restricted to the "halfway round" version of recent years.
Mr. Chang has emphasised the great visual attraction for both the local community and overseas tourists - from viewing areas in Wanchai and Central and on the Kowloon promenade - that a massed fleet of boats and windsurfers would create as they sail down through Hong Kong Harbour under colourful spinnakers and sails.
The first full circumnavigation race was held on 20 November 1983 in a clockwise direction but this format last took place in 1994. In subsequent years, the government curtailed the event in the interests of safety in view of construction works on Western Harbour Tunnel and the Kowloon reclamation. In more recent years, the increased traffic from expanded ferry services and mainland coastal shipping has led the government's Marine Department to consistently negate yacht racing in the harbour's central and western areas.
For this 20 November anniversary event, Marine Department and the organizers are working closely to identify a safe course for competitors to pass down through the Harbour with the minimum of disturbance to commercial traffic, particularly to the Macau and China ferries. The boats and windsurfers will be given staggered starting times according to their class/ size/ speed and number of entries in an attempt to ensure that there is no clash with departure or arrival times of ferries in the vicinity of the Shun Tak Terminal.
A flotilla of Yacht Club safety boats will be stationed around the course of the race to monitor the progress of an expected 250 entrants, with a Marine Police launch patrolling the scene to ensure traffic and race participants are sailing in a seaman-like manner.
Both the start and finishing lines will be set in the Harbour, in the vicinity of the Convention Centre's Golden Bauhinia Square, representatives from organizing parties and sponsors of the event will be invited to officiate at the Opening Ceremony.
If you would like further information about this unique event in Hong Kong's sailing Calendar, please contact
Ms Ailsa Angus
Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club
e-mail : firstname.lastname@example.org
Tel : +852 2239 0362