For China’s Dongfeng Race Team and Hong Kong’s SHK/Scallywag, the Volvo Ocean Race is more than just a race around the world.
Both teams are heavily involved in promoting youth sailing in their respective regions, where the sport is only now reaching mainstream consciousness.
Bruno Dubois, the Director of Dongfeng Race Team, says the Chinese Volvo Ocean Race entry is part of an explosion of sailing in the world’s most populous nation as it embraces new leisure pursuits.
“We can see that the sport is growing here and, in parallel, we are doing the Volvo Ocean Race and all these young people are looking to our team - to our Chinese sailors and to the Western guys in our team - as role models and examples and I think everything will grow in parallel,” said Dubois, who has been involved with the Chinese sailing community for over 20 years.
“We suddenly have thousands of young people in hundreds of summer camps doing sailing and those kids are growing now with sailing because they love it,” he said. “It’s a way of life for them – I think we can see that it’s cool to be sailing now in China.”
Since the 2014-15 Volvo Ocean Race, Dongfeng Race Team sailor, Chen Jinhao, also known as Horace, has created his own sailing school in Shenzhen, with over 100 of his pupils visiting the race village in Hong Kong to meet the team and the boat.
Similarly, during the Hong Kong stopover last month, the Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag team hosted thousands of school children at the team base as well as organisations like Sailability Hong Kong.
And the Sun Hung Kai Foundation also used the stopover as an opportunity to announce its collaboration with the Hong Kong Sailing Federation aimed at making the sport of sailing more accessible to local youth from less advantaged backgrounds.
“We’re going to work with the Hong Kong Sailing Federation and match dollar for dollar to offer free sailing opportunities to underprivileged children in Hong Kong,” said Scallywag skipper David Witt.
According to a press release, “the programme aims to offer 9,000 days of free education and sailing with the Sun Hung Kai & Co. Foundation matching dollar for dollar half the funds required to finance the entire programme. The scheme will be delivered by highly qualified instructors at sailing centres around Hong Kong, with the goal of making it as easy as possible for participants to take part.”
Sailing is certainly on the upswing in the region and now there are two Volvo Ocean Race teams using the power of the race to further promote the sport.
“Let’s not forget we had two Asian teams running first and second in Leg 4 of the Volvo Ocean Race,” said Witt at the Guangzhou press conference.
“I think that’s a great indication of the interest and the growth of the sport here in Asia and I think you’ll see more of that in the future.”