BY Peter Churchouse on 10 Feb 2022

Hong Kong has everything it needs to become one of the world’s greatest boating locations. It only needs some planning support from the government, says Peter Churchouse

Around the Island Race | Image courtesy of RHKYC / Vivian Ngan

Arriving in Hong Kong in 1980, it did not take me very long to realise that it was a sort of mecca for sailing and boating enthusiasts.

Hong Kong waters offer a rare combination of year-round safe sailing and clearly defined seasons that have different sailing and boating conditions. Among the many bays and islands to explore, there are some cosy anchorages for weekends away in remote surroundings. All of this is totally at odds with the conventional image of Hong Kong as a high-rise concrete jungle. And – amazingly – this is within a couple of hours cruising from downtown Central district, one of the world’s foremost financial centres.

Having sailed and boated in a great many capital cities around the world, I can confidently say that no other major city offers the variety and combination of boating pleasures and opportunities within its local waters as Hong Kong does.

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Even after more than 40 years of sailing, racing and cruising in Hong Kong, it never ceases to lift the soul to sail into a bay for a delightful seafood lunch or for a quiet evening, to race around the islands, or to raft up with other boats and enjoy each other’s company and stories.

Hong Kong boasts a thriving, vibrant sailing community through a number of clubs that promote sailing at all levels, from in the smallest dinghies to offshore racing events in larger boats. It is believed that the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club runs more yacht races each year than any other club on the planet. This is happening in a sailing and boating environment that no other major city can match.

The demand is there for a much greater level of provision, and there is certainly no shortage of suitable locations for such provision of marinas, sailing sports venues and associated facilities

Kai Tak Cruise Terminal

Many years ago, the thought of Hong Kong having the potential to be the Monaco of China entered my head. Monaco, but only much better. As a financial capital, as Monaco can claim to be, Hong Kong has much better sailing and boating conditions within its immediate environs. The only thing missing in this picture is the commitment of Hong Kong’s leadership to make this vision a reality.

The demand for recreational and sporting marine facilities has blossomed as China’s and Hong Kong’s economies have grown. It is only natural that such rapid growth of income and opportunity on the Mainland has brought with it a huge surge in demand for recreational activities such as boating and sailing sports. Hong Kong is by far the best location on the China coast for such activities. It has a huge competitive advantage.

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Hong Kong’s authorities have made modest provision for marine-based recreational and sporting facilities over the years. However, the demand is there for a much greater level of provision, and there is certainly no shortage of suitable locations for new marinas, sailing sports venues and associated facilities.

New, high-quality marinas and marine sports facilities provide huge economic and social benefits to society – creating a multitude of skilled jobs, tourism and social wellbeing. Many other major towns and cities around the world have recognised this and provided the platform for such facilities and activities to be developed. I look at how Auckland in New Zealand has transformed its city centre to become a world-class sailing venue as well as given tremendous new life to tourism and entertainment along its harbour edge. This transformation has also been a big economic boost to the local and national economy.

There is no shortage of skills, energy and capital in Hong Kong’s private sector to make this vision happen. It just needs a government that would act as the enabling mechanism to realise this vision. That enabling mechanism involves primarily providing land and planning procedures. It requires little public sector capital. The private sector and sporting organisations would be happy to do the rest.

Hong Kong has the potential to be a world leader in sailing sports and boating, given its natural conditions. It needs only a modest commitment from its leaders to make this economic, sporting, tourism and recreational vision a reality.


Peter ChurchouseLong keen on surfing and fishing, Peter Churchouse is the owner of Moonblue 2, one of the best-known competitors in Hong Kong’s regatta scene.