Eddie Smith, a British expat living in Haikou, has become the first non-Chinese citizen to be granted a yachting license in Hainan, and possibly one of the first in all of China. Although he’d been sailing since he was 8 years old, and already holds a current International Certificate of Competence issued by the RYA ( Royal Yachting Association) in the UK, which is valid in 89 countries, and a Yachtmasters Certificate, he was unable to skipper a boat in Hainan without a Chinese-issued yachting license.

Luckily for Eddie, he was able to contact the Maritime Safety Administration (MSA) in Beijing, and through them arranged to take a Chinese theory and practical yachting test. After passing these tests he was granted the yachting license, which permits him to sail within 20 nautical miles of Hainan’s coast.

With the first hurdle passed, Eddie is now considering a new problem, namely, a boat to sail. In China, boats must be owned by a Chinese citizen or entity. As he is British, he cannot own a Chinese-flagged boat directly. Fortunately, his company, Eureka International Systems, which is registered in Hainan, can. “There’s always a way,” said Eddie with a smile. “You just have to find it.”

Although he doesn’t have any boats here in Haikou yet, Eddie has big plans for sailing in Hainan, which he says is a perfect place to sail. Hainan’s warm weather, great environment, excellent bays and focus on international tourism make it a great fit for sailing, he explained. Sailing is terrific for your health, it’s environmentally friendly, and much more affordable than a luxury yacht.

In order to make sailing even more accessible for local residents and tourists, Eddie plans to launch a sailing club here in his adopted home of Haikou. He plans to offer individual and family memberships, which will be free for at least the first two years. The Haikou Sailing Club will be a club run for and by the members, of which there are already 15. His goal is to have at least 200 members by the end of the first year, and if there is enough interest, members will be able to purchase shares in jointly owned sailboats.

The issue of where to moor the sailboats is a difficult one, however. In the future perhaps the Haikou Sailing Club will be able to purchase or build a marina, but for now this is out of reach. Most moorings currently available in Hainan are prohibitively expensive, although the Hainan government has committed to building 13,500 moorings by the year 2015 as part of the plan to develop Hainan as an International Tourism Island, and there are many undeveloped bays and beaches which would work well as a sailboat mooring center.

Eddie dreams that with reasonably priced moorings, Hainan can develop an active sailing culture, which would benefit the local economy and introduce the exciting sport of sailing to a new generation.

Although sailing has a long and storied history in China, with Chinese “junks” being one of the oldest types of sailboats in the world, sailing is currently not very popular as a leisure activity in China. Chinese may be most familiar with sailboats as a poor fisherman’s boat, and think that sailing is too out of fashion, too old, or too boring.

Eddie Smith hopes to change this perception. He has always loved sailing, ever since reading the thrilling Swallows and Amazons series by Arthur Ransome. “After that, I was hooked,” he said. He has sailed all over the world, in the Atlantic, the Mediterranean, the Pacific, the North Sea, and more. He can’t wait to add the South China Sea to that list, and to get others hooked on this fantastic sport. He plans to offer sailing lessons at the Haikou Sailing Club, with instructors from the Royal Yachting Association as well as local Chinese instructors. Even those with no previous sailing experience are welcome and encouraged to come out and have fun.

“Sailing culture is a culture of self reliance, but at the same time, it’s very inclusive,” says Eddie enthusiastically. “We all help each other, and this is one of the great things about sailing that I want to bring to Hainan. Hainan has the potential to be an amazing sailing center.” Eddie and his Haikou Sailing Club will be sure to be at the center of the development of sailing as a sport and leisure activity here in Hainan. Set sail for adventure – in Haikou!

For further information on the Haikou Sailing Club, or if you wish to join, you can check their website (currently under construction) at http://www.haikousailing.org/ or email Eddie Smith directly, at edward.smIth@eureka-is.com 

SOURCE: visithainan.gov.cn


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