Riding the wind

07/28/2022

Sailing is one sport that puts enthusiasts at the mercy of the wind, waves and water. Members of the Institute’s Sailing Interest Group tell Thomas Lo what makes sailing both exciting and relaxing, and about their greatest memories at sea



Alex Yuen CPA (practising), Partner of Alex Yuen & Co., and Convenor of the Hong Kong Institute of CPAs’ Sailing Interest Group, is an avid dinghy sailor and windsurfer.


In the middle of the sea, one boat was being relentlessly pounded by howling winds and raging waves. A sudden storm in Sai Kung had almost tipped over a crew of seven sailors, forcing them to quickly adjust the angle of the sail and stand at different spots of the dinghy to keep the raft balanced. In the end, they parked their vessel on a deserted island, sought shelter, and waited for the storm to pass. 

Alex Yuen CPA (practising), Partner of Alex Yuen & Co., and Convenor of the Hong Kong Institute of CPAs’ Sailing Interest Group, was one of the sailors. “Weather reports are just there for reference – and that experience was an important lesson,” he says. “We waited for an hour and a half until the storm passed. I am just glad that I can utilize my past experiences and what I have learned from them.”

The terrifying experience also taught him a valuable lesson on the importance of preparation. “I learned that you can never prepare enough. You can’t anticipate all possibilities and threats, but preparation will minimize the problems you face or at least help you to be calm when you encounter them,” Yuen adds. Before heading out to sea, Yuen now often studies the wind direction and weather two to four days ahead to better understand the situation. 

Yuen is an experienced dinghy sailor. Like other forms of sailing, such as windsurfing, keelboat sailing and yachting, dinghy sailing relies on riding the wind. But there are major differences in the equipment used, setting of vessels and the number of participants. To sail a boat in Hong Kong waters, sailors must first take lessons from the Hong Kong Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD) and be certified by the Hong Kong Sailing Federation (HKSF). The Institute’s Sailing Interest Group cooperates with the LCSD and organizes elementary sailing courses to help interested members to gain certificates.  

Yuen has always had an affinity for water sports. He was part of the swimming team in secondary school and university, and in 1996, he attained his windsurfing certificate. After he graduated, his irregular working hours made it difficult for him to find a time for sports that he and his friends could agree on. Undeterred, he chose to practice windsurfing by himself until he changed his job in 2005. “Working more regular hours made it easier to ask friends out. I also wanted to learn another water sport, so sailing became my next target. After years of sailing, I found it to be the best ice-breaking activity. Unlike windsurfing, dinghy sailing can be a two-person endeavour. Both sailors have to work closely to sail far, and it’s a great way to bond,” Yuen explains.

That same year, while he was in the Institute’s Qualification Programme, Yuen noticed the Institute had a Sailing Interest Group. He decided to join and meet like-minded individuals.  His hobbies offer him a choice, he says. “If I want to enjoy the speed of a motorcycle on water, I will windsurf,” Yuen says. “But if I want to spend time with my friends, I will arrange an island trip and bring my friends to the islands using a dinghy and have lunch there. It is liberating.”

In June, driven by his passion for sailing and good relationship with other group members, Yuen took on the responsibility of being the Convenor of the Sailing Interest Group after the previous convenor stepped down. He schedules elementary and advanced sailing courses with the LCSD and cooperates with different sailing interest groups in Hong Kong to organize competitions and other leisure activities. “It is always fun to have sailing competitions with other passionate people. I love the sport and I want to promote it as much as possible,” he says. “I would like the interest group to be a place for members to not just develop new friendships, but to also get advice on a professional level or even lead to business opportunities.” 


“You can’t anticipate all possibilities and threats, but preparation will minimize the problems you face or at least help you to be calm when you encounter them.”


Doris Leung CPA (practising), Partner of EY, attained her sailing certificate in 2016.


Making the right decisions

An email from the Sailing Interest Group featuring some happy faces convinced Doris Leung CPA (practising), Partner of EY, to give sailing a try. “They looked so happy and relaxed, and I wanted to be like them. So I joined – and it is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made,” she says.

As an auditor, Leung often faces tight deadlines and demanding tasks. Before she started sailing, she normally went swimming, hiking and biking to destress. “None of them had the same effect on me as sailing. It is the most relaxing activity I have ever done,” Leung adds. “When you watch the sun setting on the horizon, it is like a painting, but you get to physically be a part of it,” she says, adding that she usually goes to Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club, Hebe Haven Yacht Club and The Jockey Club Wong Shek Water Sports Centre in Sai Kung, to recharge.

Sailors usually do not have much control over where to sail. Instead, the best places to sail are indicated by seasonal winds. Chong Hing Water Sports Centre, near Sai Kung’s High Island Reservoir, for example, is a popular spot for sailing during the summer due to Hong Kong’s southerly winds, while Stanley, at the southern part of Hong Kong island, is the best place to sail during autumn and winter due to the  winds from the north and east.

Leung says she sails once a month to keep her senses and skills sharp, noting how she prefers sailing during the summer months. “I practice my basic techniques every summer,” she explains. Sailing in winter or autumn is commonly considered easier than sailing in summer as the winds tend to be weaker. “During summer, you will have to make quick and precise decisions to ride the wind and sail far, otherwise you could be stuck at sea,” Leung adds.

Since obtaining elementary sailing certificates from the HKSF in 2016, Leung has participated in various competitions, including the Around the Island Races held by the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club every November, except for the 2021 race, where she was on a business trip. 

In 2019, the Institute’s team came in second place out of 100 teams in that competition, and was the first runner-up in its own class and the fifth in the overall race. “Achieving that is definitely the result of team effort and everyone making the right decisions consecutively. I love working in a group where everyone’s role is clear, and everyone contributes. I believe in the power of teamwork,” Leung explains. “The sea is full of uncertainty. Random winds like gusts can tip your vessel. Or an air vortex, which can appear without warning, can draw you into its centre and trap you in one place for a period of time until it goes away. The whole team has to decide whether to avoid or use it. You can even turn bad situations into ones that work for you. It depends on how you use them to your advantage, which is the same when it comes to making life decisions.”



(Second from left) Leung usually practices sailing at Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club, Hebe Haven Yacht Club and The Jockey Club Wong Shek Water Sports Centre in Sai Kung.


“You will have to make quick and precise decisions to ride the wind and sail far, otherwise you could be stuck at sea.”


Frederick Wong FCPA (practising), Sole Proprietor of Frederick C.Y. Wong & Company, is a passionate sailor and windsurfer.


Embracing changes

In 2008, during a gathering at the Institute, Frederick Wong FCPA (practising), Sole Proprietor of Frederick C.Y. Wong & Company, and a former convenor of the Sailing Interest Group, discussed the fun they had just had at a Dragon Boat event by the Institute. Suddenly – despite not knowing much about sailing – they both came up with the idea of forming the Sailing Interest Group. 

Wong got his windsurfing certificate at a young age and was also a water sports fan. However, he often found windsurfing too intense. So he joined an elementary sailing course with other founding members to explore a different water sport. “Compared to windsurfing, sailing suits me more, but catching the wind is still difficult and requires experience. It takes consistent practice to keep your sense of the wind sharp. Right after attaining our certificates, we gathered a team and went sailing on our own,” Wong adds. 

They gathered 20 people and organized the first trip of the Sailing Interest Group, which was formed in 2008. “We departed from the Wong Shek Pier at the edge of Sai Kung West Country Park, and sailed a yacht to Ko Lau Wan at the tip of the Sai Kung East Country Park. We went there solely for their local cuisine, the cuttlefish balls, and we had a great time there,” Wong explains. “I still remember the quietness of the sea and how the wind touched my face while we were sailing on a yacht. It can be intoxicating, and ever since that trip, all of us have been hungry for opportunity to sail. It is never difficult to gather members and go on a trip.”

Among the different forms of sailing, yachting, which requires at least eight members on board, is Wong’s favourite. “I enjoy sailing with a large group of people,” Wong says. “We can talk about work or even give each other advice from a professional perspective. Conversations never get boring, and we never run out of topics.” 


“When we are at sea, we are at the mercy of nature.”

One thing certain about the sea is that it is uncertain. There can be sudden gusts, crashing waves or wind holes that trap vessels. As one of the first interest group members, Wong has participated in several sailing competitions. “The fascinating aspect of sailing is that you never deal with the same set of conditions. Nature is constantly changing, and you will never know when and where waves or gusts will emerge,” Wong explains. “It is important to be flexible to changes. When we are at sea, we are at the mercy of nature. The wind and the waves can be both an obstacle and an asset. Adapting quickly and having the team react simultaneously is the key to victory. But this is what makes the sport appealing – ­it is both relaxing and exciting.” 


Members who are interested in sailing may consider joining the Institute’s Sailing Interest Group. More information can be found at www.hkicpa.org.hk