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Shanghai Cup. What’s in a Name?

by China Boating Intelligence on 12 Oct 2017
Shanghai Cup - date check China Boating Intelligence (CBI)
Way back in 1873 there was a yacht club in Shanghai - called the Shanghai Yacht Club. One of their premier events was the Shanghai Cup. SIs were pretty simple in 1873, and this race was described as “round the red buoy,” and was “open to all yachts”. The yachts in question were members’ yachts, and were probably all gaff rigged cruisers. The Club was briefly mentioned in ‘Empire of the Sun,’ J G Ballard’s novel (which was made into a film by Stephen Spielberg), and met its demise during the Japanese War of Aggression in the 1930s.

In 1876 the Shanghai Cup was replaced with an ornate silver trophy which cost (according to the receipt) $433. It was won on a number of occasions by Club member G B Hill who subsequently took the Cup back to the UK, and eventually gifted it to his son who in turn passed it on to the Cardiff Bay Yacht Club where to this day it is competed for annually on the waters of the Bristol Channel.

Fast forward to 2004, and the modern version of the Shanghai Yacht Club (with absolutely no connection or link to the original SYC), learned of the existence of the Cup and tried to bring it back to Shanghai.

The ‘new’ Shanghai Yacht Club seem to care little for accuracy or history where the Shanghai Cup is concerned. At a press conference they displayed a picture of the cup with the date 1873 alongside it, when it was actually purchased on 24th October 1876. Clearly, the present incarnation of the Shanghai Yacht Club would like to give the impression that the Shanghai Cup has been a continuous 141 year old event - when in actual fact there was little or no Chinese involvement in the racing in 1876, and the original Shanghai Yacht Club has been out of existence since 1934 or so.

In a recent press release there is an image that includes the words “Established by SYC since 1873.” In UK Common Law this is called “passing off,” in which one party (SYC 2) tries to use the goodwill associated with another party (SYC 1) for their own benefit. There is, of course, absolutely no link at all between the original Shanghai Yacht Club whose members competed for the Shanghai Cup and the much, much newer club calling itself Shanghai Yacht Club (its full name is Shanghai Yacht Club & Resort) other than a copying of the original club’s name. “Established by SYC since 1873” is nothing more than a piece of fake historical PR blurb in an attempt to provide the owners of SYC with some sort of longevity. It should also be noted that SYC is solely a commercial operation with the ‘members’ having very little actual input into the running (and certainly not the financial aspects) of the Club.

China is good at this sort of thing. Longevity is often claimed as legitimacy, even when the historical record is not continuous. Facts are massaged and bent to fit the required framework. “We don’t recognise unequal treaties” can be paired off against “we have dug up a treaty so old and tenuous that it is nothing more than legal tissue paper,” and all of a sudden China ‘owns’ Scarborough Reef – which is a mere 130nm from the Luzon coast of the Philippines and at least 470 nm from the nearest point of China.

This sort of dishonesty is not good for sailing in China. It is also not good for China’s image as honest business people in a wider context. It’s a combination of fake news and alternative facts, the sort of nonsense that promotes the China Cup International Regatta as “bigger than the America’s Cup.”

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