There are not that many sailing races that can put a city like Sanya in China on the map. The Volvo Ocean Race is one event that, through it’s unique global coverage, brings attention to new places who, in return, benefit from media attention and hopefully tourism and inbound investment.
During the last America’s Cup cycle, Alinghi had journalists scrambling through Google Maps to find Ras Al Khaimah, a little known emirate north of Dubai. We have to admit that we had to get Google maps out again to find Sanya, which is about as far south as you can get in China – south of Hong Kong and further south even than the Vietnamese city of Hanoi.
While Qingdao has been the host port for many international sailing events including the Olympics and more recently the Extreme Sailing Series, other cities in China are actively bidding for yacht racing events to support a growing appetite for marine activities. China will have one of the best funded America’s Cup teams for the next cycle which is backed up by a rapidly growing market for private yachts including superyachts.
China has an estimated 875,000 millionaires and nearly half of them want to buy a boat, according to a survey last year by the Hurun Report, China’s version of the Forbes Rich List. There is plenty of room for growth, with only about 1,300 private yachts in China, according to figures cited by state media.
It might take a while to convince people that China is a destination for yachting like the Mediterranean or the Caribbean, but hosting events like the Volvo Ocean Race, helps cities like Sanya to position themselves as “China’s Hawaii”.
Speakers at the recent Volvo Ocean Race press conference to promote the Sanya stopover, like Wang Yangjun, Deputy Secretary-general of Hainan Provincial Government, Li Quanhai, Deputy Director of Water Sports Administration Center under State General Administration of Sports, Chairman of Asian Sailing Federation and Vice Chairman of Chinese Yachting Association and Wang Yong, Mayor of Sanya City all believe in the ability of the Volvo Ocean Race to help fuel the growth of watersports in the country.