There's a story (below) about ICBC providing ‘financial support' for Ferretti buyers. Don't skim over it because it looks a bit dull and doesn't concern 72ft foiling catamarans of something equally funky – this is an important story, potentially a game-changer in the Asian boat market.
In Asia, buying a boat – any sort of boat – has involved fronting up with the cash. A friend of mine, attending a Hong Kong boat show for the first time, asked ‘where are all the finance companies?' If you turn up for the Southampton Boat Show, or London, you'll find banks offering marine mortgages – probably not so many today as five or so years ago, but you get the idea. In Europe and the US, boats are something that can be financed, but not generally speaking in this part of the world.
Now the International Commercial Bank of China is ‘allowing potential customers to make use of ICBC's guarantee to make purchases.' That's a long way short of actually lending money, but is nonetheless an opener.
Lots of people have been talking about the ‘Asian boating boom' and particularly the ‘Chinese boating boom' for a long time – mostly people with a vested interest in making the business look better than it really is. There has been a lot of clap-trap talked and published about marine leisure infrastructure projects, booming 5 Gold Anchor marinas (empty), and a leisure boating fleet growing at exponential rates – most of it rubbish.
The facts are – China has a punitive import duty imposed on foreign-built boats (and most of the domestically-built ones leave something to be desired), and there is no cohesive national policy covering leisure vessels meaning that boat owners cannot cruise the China coast in the same way that they might cruise the Mediterranean – and in any case, if you have a big expensive boat then what's the point of wandering around on it anywhere that you can't be seen and admired for your self-evident wealth? Stay in the marina, no engines required (but that's a story for another time)!
Last weekend was the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club's signature inshore event of the year, the St Regis International China Coast Regatta. In recent years this has acquired a well deserved reputation for being a ‘racers' regatta, as opposed to a cocktail party regatta (not that we have anything against the latter – quite the contrary). 20-25kts of solid breeze, 2-3m swells, broken boats and bruised crew was the norm until last year, when the breeze shut off. Maybe it's global warming, who knows, but CCR 2012 turned out to be a light air regatta again. Two races on day 1 starting in 6kts turned out to be some of the best breeze in three days. After a 2-hr ‘AP on shore', day 2 got one race in and then it was three guns. Day 3 needed one race to make the series, and got it, and one more besides, but it was ‘soft going' as they say in the horse business. Not enough races to bring a drop into play, so Peninsula Signal 8 had to swallow her 7th in the last race and miss out on the IRC 1 honours which went to Fred Kinmonth/Nick Burns's EFG Bank Mandrake. Free Fire (Sam Chan) scored five firsts from five races to clean up IRC 0, and Anthony Root's Red Kite II repeated the trick in IRC 2.
Hong Kong to Hainan Race starts tomorrow, and goes to the new Serenity Marina, recently host venue for the Hainan stopover in the Volvo race. Wind forecast is better...
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