Urban life

Tribes of Hong Kong: The sailors

ANSHEL MA explores the spirit of the sea with local sailors Dennis Chien, Momo Cheung and Manson Ma

A prominent port city with numerous islands and lots of wind, Hong Kong is a natural place for sailing to thrive. With the Volvo Ocean Race making stops in Hong Kong this and next month, we speak with three avid sailors who take part in yacht races throughout the year.

They compete in the Impala category, in which teams consist of six or seven members. The team aspect makes compatibility an important facet of the competition. ‘You can only improve if you’re all in it together, and you have to be around each other for a long time, so it’s important to pick the right teammates,’ says Manson Ma, who first took up the sport seven years ago. ‘My current team has been together for two years. I really enjoy achieving our goals as a group, and growing and going through experiences. So I find the team aspect of boating sports to suit me perfectly.’

Ma has recently started teaching and Momo Cheung is one of his students. But Cheung is an exception in a sport still dominated by men. ‘Only maybe two out of every 10 sailors are female; physical strength might be a factor,’ she says. When it comes to competitions, it’s not all about winning for her. ‘Gaining experience and learning from veteran contenders are just as important.’

With 20 years of experience, Dennis Chien says there is no such thing as a gifted sailor. ‘It takes time to slowly hone skills. Moreover, winning involves all conditions falling into place and knowing how to use the rules to your advantage. This takes a lot of practice – no shortcuts.’

In our conversation, Ma repeatedly calls Chien his opponent, but it’s all buddy-buddy between them. ‘We’d go for a beer after a race and have our own post-match review,’ says Chien. ‘There’s no enmity off the field. We also value the seaman’s code: we would save anyone in danger at sea.’

Hong Kong sailors

The Volvo Ocean Race’s local races in Hong Kong are on 27 and 28 January. The Hong Kong leg of the global race is held 1 to 7 February.

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