Team Hong Kong at Sail Melbourne – the Asia-Pacific Regatta

International teams have started to arrive in Melbourne with only one week to go to Sail Melbourne International 2017 to be held out of Royal Brighton Yacht Club from 29 November to 3 December 2017. Racing is scheduled to kick-off on Wednesday, 29 November with the Olympic classes racing from Wednesday through to Saturday, 2nd December and the majority of the Invited classes to race from Friday, 1 December through to 3rd December 2017. The Sail Melbourne Regatta is Australia’s premier Olympic and Invited Classes Regatta, held annually in the waters of Port Phillip and a fixture on the international sailing calendar and in the Asia-Pacific region specifically.

Sail Melbourne International is the inaugural leg of the new Asia-Pacific Circuit with a strong Asian representation to compete in Melbourne. China is bringing an Optimist dinghy Youth Team to Melbourne while Malaysia has entered two Laser (one-person dinghy) sailors. Japan is represented in Melbourne with two men’s 470 two-person dinghy crews as well as a Laser Radial. Both Japanese 470 crews of Daichi Takayam and Kimihiko Imamura, plus Doi Kazuto and Naoya Kimura are currently ranked in the World Sailing top ten and are training partners of Australian Olympic silver medallists Mat Belcher and Will Ryan, who will also be competing in Melbourne.

Team Hong Kong has come to Australia with four boats and will be racing at both Sail Melbourne and Sail Sydney (11-14 December). The team of two 470 crews, one 49er (men’s skiff) and one Laser sailor arrived in Melbourne three days ago and is excited to be escaping Hong Kong winter.

“Melbourne has been great. In Hong Kong it’s winter now and it’s nice to be in the sun for a change,” women’s 470 sailor Anna Fisher said. And about her expectations she added, “We hope to be in the top third of the fleet once the racing starts. But we also just want to have fun as this is my first international regatta so it’s quite exciting to be here.”

It is a new team of up and coming Olympic boat class sailors, who have to come to Melbourne from Hong Kong under the lead of Hong Kong Sport Institute’s Head Sailing Coach Steven Lovegrove. Lovegrove joined the team almost a year ago after leaving his men’s 470 Olympic coach on the British Sailing Team and is excited about the sailors and the opportunities for sailing in Hong Kong.

“There are a lot of new things happening in Hong Kong and in our team. Former national team sailor Tong Yui-shing is now the president of our federation and a strong supporter of the work we are doing. He won a medal at the Asian Games in 2014 in the multihull and his crew at the Asian Games is now helming the 470 here. Following this, sailing started to be supported by the Hong Kong Sports Institute and our work has the full backing of the Federation. It’s a learning experience for all of us because the Federation has not dealt with tiered funded sport before, so we are currently building the program literally from ground zero and are in the process of building our networks and a pathway system,” Lovegrove explained some of the changes sailing in Hong Kong is currently undergoing.

“We are a small program with big aspirations and it’s great to have so much support from the Hong Kong Sailing Federation and the Hong Kong Sport Institute. Plus we have some promising talent that has been grown out of the local yacht clubs thanks to the work of the local coaches.“

And in regard to the opportunities the Asia-Pacific circuit and Sail Melbourne offers the team Lovegrove adds: “We are trying to make the most of the Asia pacific circuit. Certainly in Hong Kong but even in Asia there is not a really big scene for us to participate in so it is great to be able to come to Australia and race some international events. We are a rather well funded team, but of course we still have to justify our spent, so once we have done the trip to get here with the equipment, it is great to be able to get two regattas under our belt with both Sail Melbourne and Sail Sydney. Our Laser sailor Nick as well as our Laser 4.7 team, who are still coming over, will also do the Australian Nationals. So it’s a big trip for some of us.”

The team has been training out of Royal Brighton Yacht Club to get accustomed to the Port Phillip conditions: “A couple of the team came here last year as well, so they know the area a little bit. Also the club has been super friendly and helpful and we couldn’t ask for anything more. All of our athletes are looking forward to the racing, even though the team is a bit nervous about the local breeze as we generally don’t get huge amounts of breeze in Hong Kong but it’s been quite mellow so far,” Lovegrove said.

Over 300 competitors from eight countries have currently signed up for Sail Melbourne International with entries still open until Monday, 27 November 2017.

The Australian Sailing Team and Australian Sailing Youth Team have also confirmed their Sail Melbourne entries, including Olympic champion in the Laser Tom Burton and Nacra 17 Olympic silver medallists Lisa Darmanin and Jason Waterhouse. London 2012 Olympic champion Tom Slingsby has entered the Finn class, which is spearheaded by 2017 Finn Class World Champion Max Salminen from Sweden.

With both Olympic and Invited classes competing at Sail Melbourne, the high-calibre Sail Melbourne line-up will give other competitors a rare opportunity to mix it up with world champions and Olympic medallists on the Port Phillip racetrack. Competing along side their Olympic heroes offers an aspirational pathway for up and coming young sailors in the Invited, Junior and Youth classes.

Sail Melbourne International 2017 offers a full program for Olympic and Invited classes and includes the Inaugural Victorian Foiling Kites State Championships. The event will be raced in a split format with four days of racing for the Olympic Classes (Wed 29th to Sat 2nd Dec) and three days (Fri 1st to Sun 3rd Dec) for the majority of the Invited Classes.

For more information and the Notice of Race see www.sailmelbourne.com.au

Online entries can be made here: http://www.sailmelbourne.com.au/online-entry-view-entry

Follow Sail Melbourne International:

Website: www.sailmelbourne.com.au

Facebook: @SailMelbourne

Twitter: @sailmelb

Instagram: @SailMelbourne