Witt, Hong Kong and the Volvo Ocean Race

The Volvo Ocean Race is steeped in history and skipper David Witt and his Team Sun Hung Kai / Scallywag will be creating some of their own when they head out onto the water for the 2017-18 edition of the famed round-the-world event.

Backed by Seng Huang Lee and Sun Hung Kai & Co — the Hong Kong-based owners of super-maxi yacht, Scallywag — Witt will helm the first-ever entry in the Volvo Ocean Race from Hong Kong, a city with a rich maritime history of its own.

Witt said he was drawn to the challenge when he learned of the team sponsors’ determination to not only make their mark on the greatest ocean race but to forge a commitment to promoting the cause of competitive sailing across Asia.

“It is a dream come true really,” said Witt.

“Being skipper is something I wanted to do my whole life. Having grown up in Sydney, Mr Lee has an extreme passion for the sport, but I also want to lift the level and profile of the sport here in Hong Kong. To skipper Hong Kong’s first boat and to represent Mr Lee and his corporation, I think it’s really important we do a good job.”

Hong Kong is also set to host a leg of the 44-year-old circumnavigation for the first time when the fleet sails into our spectacular Victoria Harbour on mid-January 2018.

Witt is confident of the city putting on a good show for some of the world’s top sailors early next year. “It’s perfect,” says Witt. “Hong Kong harbour is known around the world. Hong Kong has got it all, it has the look, it has the feel. It’s what the Volvo Ocean Race needs.

“It will be at Kai Tak so you can imagine the pictures and vision that will return especially at night looking back on the city with the lights and the light show.

The veteran Aussie brings a wealth of ocean racing experience with him, including multiple Sydney Hobart crossings He and had his first taste of the round-the-world race 20 years ago. Now back and in charge of his own crew, Witt will draw on the vast experience of veteran Hong Kong sailor, Tiger Mok, for when the new edition begins shortly off Alicante, Spain (22.Oct.17), as well a mix of fellow veterans and up-and-coming stars of the ocean racing world, including Dutch Olympic medallist, Annemieke Bes.

Joining Witt, Mok and Bes will be Australians Luke Parkinson, a winner as a rookie last season on board Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, and five-time veteran Steve Hayles, who was just 20 years old when he made his Volvo Ocean Race debut on board Reebok / Dolphin & Youth back in 1993-94, making him the race’s youngest ever navigator.

Rounding out the team on board Scallywag will be New Zealand’s Mark Fullerton, who was in action with Brunel in the 2005-06 race, Briton John Fisher, Australians David Mann, Alex Gough, Ben Piggott and Tom Clout, and Portugal’s António Fontes.

“We have a saying on the boat that goes ‘You are a trencher’,” explained Witt. “If you’re not a trencher, we don’t want to sail with you. A trencher means if you are not prepared to stand next to the guy in the trench in a war you are not going to want to sail with them.

“I don’t really care about not sleeping well or not having a shower. I’m not worried about the southern ocean or the equator or anything else.

“My biggest fear is failing, you know. Not doing a good job, and letting people down. We have a massive opportunity here for the entire sailing community in Hong Kong, amateur and professional, and we just want to make sure that we do the best job we can for them.”
Fragrant Harbour will follow Witt, crew and Scallywag throughout the race, and will report on their arrival and programme for Hong Kong in the next issue.

In our previous issue, Number 291, Fragrant Harbour interviewed Witt and learnt about his past experiences as a sailor and crew choices for the race. Readers can view the article on pages 74 and 75 of Number 291, accessible at https://issuu.com/fragrantharbour/docs/number_291

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