Water sports everywhere . . .
and for everyone

On the 11th of March 2017, a small but significant water sports event took place in Victoria Harbour.

In support of the Chief Executive’s policy to bring water sports activities to the harbour, the Hong Kong Water Sports Council (HKWSC) has been working with its member associations to develop and increase the opportunities for such activities and events. Much of the Council’s recent focus has been on the development of proposed water sports centres at Kai Tak and Tseung Kwan O, but it has not lost sight of its broader objectives to expand interest and participation in water sports everywhere . . . and for everyone.

The event on Saturday, the 11th, was supported by the HKWSC and co-organised by the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club and the Hong Kong, China Rowing Association. It comprised a short-course coastal rowing regatta, bringing competitive rowing back to
Victoria Harbour for the first time in over 50 years.

It was significant in that, with over 200 competitors from local schools, universities and clubs, it demonstrated the suitability, convenience and attraction of the harbour as a venue for water sports . . . for everyone. The event location concentrated racing around the Wanchai and Causeway Bay waterfront, parts of which are currently a works site for the Sha Tin to Central Link and Central-Wanchai Bypass, but are also the subject of an ongoing study (through the Harbourfront Commission) for water sports events and activities.

Designated the ‘1st Harbour Regatta’ because of its historic significance, the event gained support from The Excelsior, as title sponsor. Other sponsors were drawn by the attraction and exposure provided by the location. The potential of the event to involve
a range of participants was also given consideration. Invited guests included the Commissioner for Sports, the Chairman of the Harbourfront Commission and the president of the Asian Rowing Federation.

This event is, of course, dwarfed by a number of iconic Hong Kong harbour events already held annually, including the International Dragon Boat Races and the New World Harbour Race (Cross-Harbour Swim), but its size was not as important as the fact that it marked the beginning of another viable, and potentially large, water sports activity in the harbour.

Historically, many rowing boat designs were suitable for safe use in open water. Until recently, though, the International Rowing Federation (FISA) had not organised competitions for ‘open water’ boats since it was formed in 1892, preferring to concentrate on the ‘Olympic-style’ designs used only in flat water competitions. This was logical, with the Olympic Games being the pinnacle of success in world rowing.

However, since 2008, FISA has seen the opportunity to develop a broader base for rowing using what are now called coastal rowing boats, designed for safe use in rough water. It is these boats that have allowed competitive rowing to come back to the harbour. They have also raised the appeal of regular community rowing activities in easily accessible locations for large sectors of the community, whether as active participants or interested spectators. All will benefit from an increase of rowing in the waters of Victoria Harbour.

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