#legendchat: How Beneteau Asia Pacific built Hong Kong’s sailing community
By: Stephenie Gee
December 20, 2022
Following the successful second edition of the Beneteau Cup Hong Kong, sales director of Beneteau Asia Pacific Erwan Her talks to Stephenie Gee about the two-day regatta and building Hong Kong’s sailing community
It’s 11am on a clear Saturday. We’re cruising along the idyllic south coast of Hong Kong Island in our spectator yacht, a Grand Trawler 62, as we watch a line-up of 17 of the sleekest Beneteau sailing yachts, ranging from small keelboat First 265 to family cruiser Oceanis 51.1, gather by the Round Island start line, south of Middle Island, to compete in the second edition of Asia’s first Beneteau Cup. Waves lap gently on the distant shore while seabirds soar overhead, casting shadows on the water below. At the sound of the horn, they set off on their 14.2-nautical mile course, sailing in light north-easterly winds up to 7-8 knots through Chesterman Gate and Castle Rock before rounding Beaufort Island to head back.
Hailing from France in the ’90s, the Beneteau Cup has since expanded across the globe as one of the most popular regattas in the world. Its Hong Kong leg – which made its debut in 2021 – co-organised by Beneteau Asia Pacific and Simpson Marine, has, too, quickly become the most anticipated sailing event of the region. The two-day regatta, which followed a similar format to the inaugural edition with an island race on the first day and a pursuit race on the second day, brings together Beneteau owners to celebrate their shared passion for sailing and the sea.
“Hong Kong is one of the most important markets to us and that explains why the Beneteau Asia Pacific office was chosen to be situated in Hong Kong. We see the fact that many people find Hong Kong a charming place to set sail and the market is relatively more mature than a lot of cities in Asia as evidenced by the more advanced marine facilities and the large numbers of Beneteau owners here,” says Erwan Her, sales director of Beneteau Asia Pacific. “The event is not only about bringing us closer with the Beneteau owners, but also to allow every one of us to spend quality time through exploring the beauty of Hong Kong with family and friends, being away from the bustle side of Hong Kong and feeling the tranquillity of the beautiful outlying islands.”
What were some of the changes to Beneteau Cup 2022 in comparison to last year’s edition?
We prefer to say that this edition is an enhanced version, instead of highlighting the differences. Last year’s edition was the first one and under many restrictions due to the pandemic. With the experience of the first edition, it definitely helped us in the planning for the second edition, from creating the event format, lining up sponsors to communicating with different stakeholders.
In terms of the sponsors, we were honoured to have more sponsors than last year thanks to the success of last year’s edition. Particularly, we would like to thank Aon for being our title sponsor; while for the remaining, most of them came from the lifestyle sector which we saw as a win-win for all parties due to the good exposure opportunities to high net-worth groups.
What were some of the main challenges of organising this year’s event and how were they overcome?
The pandemic situation certainly brought challenges to every event. Originally, the event was scheduled in May when the city had been undergoing a lot of social bans. That’s why we decided to postpone it to October. A lot of pre-event organisation early this year had to be cancelled or changed accordingly to react with the actual circumstances. For example, we experienced that some owners had already left Hong Kong. Fortunately, with the ease in Covid restrictions recently, everything is nearly back to normal, allowing all the participants to fully enjoy the races. That is what matters the most to us.
What would you say were some of the highlights of this year’s regatta?
There were several memorable moments. First, this year, we partnered with Sailability Hong Kong, a charity that aims to provide sailing opportunities to everyone in Hong Kong irrespective of ability, gender, ethnicity, age, status, sexuality or religion. During the themed gala dinner on the first night, we were very honoured to have the founder, Kay Rawbone, give us an inspiring speech. The reason for this partnership is that we share the same vision – to build a sailing community in Hong Kong.
Another important moment was the after-party when all the boats had finished the two-day bittersweet sailing competition. As we always said, the Beneteau Cup is truly beyond winning or awards. This is a chance to engage or meet like-minded individuals who share the same passion for sailing and the sea. All of us were having so much fun at the beach party.
What were some of the things you’ve learned from this year’s event that you can take to make next year’s better?
We do have high expectations for the Beneteau Cup and hope to grow the event into an international regatta with owners from China, Taiwan and Southeast Asia attending as well. The communication to Beneteau owners, from drawing their attention to the follow-up after the registration, takes a lot of effort from different parties. And this is the area we have to strengthen for next year.
How would you describe the Beneteau community in Asi, and how does Beneteau hope to continue to grow and build it?
The Beneteau community is surely one of the biggest in Asia. We opened our first office in Shanghai in 2005 and we have opened a network of over 25 dealers in APAC. Our presence has allowed us to become the leader in the sailing market and we therefore have a large community of owners across the region.
Recently, the Beneteau community in Asia has been boosted by the pandemic, especially in Hong Kong, Japan and Thailand, as more people would see this as another way to enjoy life under the lockdown. Looking ahead, with the cancellation of Covid restrictions, we are expecting Beneteau to be more active in participating in key boat shows, organising more regattas, owners’ rendezvous and product launch events to further enhance exposure and engage with Beneteau owners.