How many countries will have two stopovers in the next Volvo Ocean Race? Simple question, simple answer ONE, China.
Many people (those that know) rightly say Hong Kong isn’t seen as China by many (most) Chinese. Different currency, different taxation, many different laws, different language – they even drive on the opposite side of the road.
Mainland Chinese even need a special visa to visit so imagine the disappointment when Hong Kong was to be the only stopover in Asia.
Well disappointment no more. With the final route published/announced this week, just round the corner in Guangzhou there WILL be a full blown Mainland Chinese stopover, replete with Race Village and In Port Race. It makes perfect sense for sponsors (signed AND potential) to have direct access, or more importantly for their Chinese VIP customers and clients to have direct access to their presence without having to go through passport control at a border to go and watch a yacht race.
China has, for a long time, had more millionaires than Europe and after the rumblings of “Brexit” the gap has probably widened further. Earlier this year it was announced it even has more Billionaires than the United States. An important market therefore – for just about anyone.
Due to vessel movement restrictions on the Pearl River the journey from Hong Kong to Guanzhou will a transfer passage as to give non savvy readers (and that includes pretty much anyone who doesn’t/hasn’t lived here) the Pearl River is often like the maritime equivalent of a Los Angeles Freeway at rush hour.
Yet another exciting new development in the history of the Whitbread/Volvo which, this edition, kind of returns to its roots with more Southern Ocean miles than for a decade and starts to recapture and once more gives true meaning to the events “Life at the Extreme” tag line.
All we need now is a Chinese Team to sign up to complete the picture. It would be wonderful – from a sailor in China’s perspective – to complete the set.
He has only been there a month but it does look like the new CEO Mr Turner has already stamped his ‘Mark’ on the event (sorry).
For me the ‘dream ticket’ next time round – I know I am getting ahead of myself – would be a Guangzhou/Shanghai dual stopover. Could you imagine 2 stops that between them would have over 50 million people within public transport reach of the race villages? The idea of welcoming the fleet into my home port does bring a grin to my face and how many sponsors could resist billboard in TWO cities with a USD1Tr GDP.
Anyway, that’s future guessing (or hoping) For now a stop in one of China’s tier one cities is not going to cause any multi-nationals to shy away especially when twinned with the financial centre which is Hong Kong.
2018 is going to have a very special start for the sailing community in the region.
– Shanghai Sailor