In light of the coronavirus situation effecting Ireland, Afloat.ie got in touch with Barry Hayes from UK Sailmakers Ireland, who has lived in three continents, to share his experience in Asia and what’s going on with Covid-19 in Hong Kong’s sailing community.
Barry says: “Having lived in HK for so long, I can tell you they have vast experience with viruses! For example, HK has had influenza, swine flu and the SARS virus. They hit very hard in HK and the people responded to it.
“Yes, clubs closed and people lost jobs. Racing stopped for a short time. It returned and they recovered quickly.
This year, Covid-19 really hit home in Hong Kong around Chinese New Year festivities on 24 January. “When HK started to go into lockdown schools were closed, and still are. From there all racing was stopped and the clubs closed.
“But this time the HK government felt it was better to keep the clubs going and get people out sailing. So they didn’t let the clubs stay closed for long — pushing them to reopen as soon as a low in the virus came so people got out and got active in the sun.
The upside of this, Barry says, is that “there is light at the end of the tunnel”.
“Last weekend HK returned to full racing. Just eight weeks after the virus hit the hardest. They held the Hong Kong IRC Nationals on 14-15 March.
“This virus will affect us but we will rebound. I am sure, having lived in both countries, we need to work super hard to reduce the contact between humans as much as we can. And Ireland seems to be working hard on doing this.
“I know in the short term it seems impossible, but I can tell you from experience we will be back racing with a delayed season.
One of the boats sailing in last week’s HK IRC nationals was Nick Southward’s modified J109, Whiskey Jack.
“The threat now appears to be infections from people flooding back into HK from Europe and the US, but there is now a travel restriction in place and all who arrive have to go into a compulsory fourteen day quarantine at home. This monitored by a smart bracelet, an app and the police to ensure enforcement.”
Beyond that, Alex Johnson, manager of HK’s Aberdeen Yacht Club, reports that life is “sort of normal, but restricted in terms of what you can do”.
“The population is also very clued-up after SARS which really has helped to combat the virus. Everyone wears face masks, liberally uses hand sanitiser and luckily the toilet roll supply is now constant!
“HK is not out of the woods yet but the infection rate on the mainland has dropped dramatically so everyone is hopeful.”