I was asked to put together milestones of my involvement with the development of sailing in China for a project we are working on and while doing so started to realise w have had some amazing happenings along the way and thought people might be interested in what can be achieved if you are bloody minded or stubborn (or plain stupid) enough.
In 2000 the company I worked for in the UK was closed by the bank that owned it. Simple happening that was to change a whole pile of things for me. The financial services industry was going through a huge flux and as I scanned the ‘pink pages’ I noticed an opportunity in Shanghai. I applied and was successful and thought I would give it a go.
Getting off the plane at Shanghai Pudong Airport I instantly went from one of the boys to ethnic minority. Shanghai, by the way was, and still is one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world but one ting it didn’t have was sailing. I guessed it might ultimately be a relatively short stay.
Not many months in I met with a prospective client by the name of Francois de Lambert and on the shelf by his desk was a photograph of a half tonner with the kite up clearly on the edge of control. “Who is that?” I asked. “Me” came the response and any thought of business was forgotten for the next couple of hours as it quickly became clear I wasn’t the only one suffering from withdrawal symptoms.
A letter in an expat magazine led to an almost Biblical first meeting with 14 instead of 13 meeting above a bar in Shanghai. The word got out, one person, Rob found a club in Hong Kong that was replacing its training fleet, another, Simon, who was to become Vice Commodore was manager for a Logistics company, sums were done and if we could get 50 people to commit to USD200 membership we could pull it together, buy the boats, ship them to Shanghai, pay the customs and we’d be off. In the end we had 100 founder members who all received a certificate, cap, burgee and club shirt.
The boats were nothing special, 6 beat up Wanderers but they brought organised Corinthian sailing to China in the form of Shanghai Boat & Yacht Club, the first members run sailing club in China since the Japanese invasion n the 1930s.
I reckoned though that to have any chance of real growth there needed to be private ownership and thoughts turned to my Quarter Tonner languishing on the hard back in Scotland and in 2003 decided to commit to a career in China and put my house on the market but bringing an 8m yacht halfway round the world would be expensive so I approached some logistics companies for sponsorship. To be continued. – Shanghai Sailor.