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9th Macau Yacht Show 2019: back on track after a ropey few years

by Guy Nowell, Sail-World Asia 29 Oct 23:26 PDT 24-27 October 2019
9th Macau Yacht Show 2019 © Guy Nowell / Macau Yacht Show

For three days of sunshine, boats, dinghy sailing, bikini parades, jetsurf demos, sea trials and sunset cruises, Fisherman’s Wharf Macau came alive - for the duration of the 9th Macau Yacht Show. From a splendid 140ft Sunseeker superyacht down to the sub-8ft Optimists, there was (literally) something for everyone. For the more serious-minded visitors there was an opportunity to network with fellow professionals and discuss marine industry matters relating to yachting and boating in the Greater Bay Area at the Asia-Pacific Yacht Industry High-Level Forum.

Over the last nine years the MYS has had an interesting history. Organised by Nam Kwong, the only PRC State Owned Enterprise operating in Macau, the first show (2011) took place at Fisherman’s Wharf and attracted somewhere in the order of 30 boats. It was reckoned to be highly successful for a first go-round, but then the wheels fell off. For the next five years the event languished somewhere between the Doldrums and the Abyss… think indoor shows in the huge exhibition barns at The Venetian, with no in-water component. One year there were six boats parked among the rusty barbed wire and decaying pontoons in the yacht basin on the Avenida Marginal, way away up in the northeast corner of Macau, and on another occasion the show was staged at the Grand Coloane Resort: pouring rain, empty on-land stalls, a couple of boats moored off the beach and made inaccessible by the weather, and nothing but a gala dinner to show for the whole shemozzle.

In 2017 MYS moved back to Fisherman’s Wharf. In reality, it’s the only place to run a boat show in Macau, even if the wash from the incoming jet ferries from Hong Kong make it a less than ideal spot. The exceptionally dodgy pontoons from 2011 have been replaced, and someone has figured out the mooring geometry. It’s still a bouncy berth when a big wash rolls through, but it is a huge improvement on anything that has gone before.

This year’s crowds may not have been as large as official figures claim – 20,000 people is quite a few strollers. One of the gate guards estimated “maybe 2,000” going past on the last day of the show, but please note that your reporter went in on multiple occasions every day, and was scanned in every time. There were definitely some ‘duplicates’ in the count!

This year there were 14 boats on display, regardless of what the official press release says. If you want to pad the numbers, add in the Optimists and Toppers being used for youth sailing demos. The boats were all accessible, even if some required an appointment, but that’s standard. Judging by the numbers of pairs of shoes on the pontoons, there was plenty of on-water interaction going on. There were both locally-built and international brands on show – Jeanneau and Hanse representing the sailing boats, and motor yacht contributions from Sunseeker, Ferretti, Absolute, Maxthon, Galeon, MCY, Azimut and Jetpon.

The biggest question that hangs over any boat show in Macau is this: who are the potential customers? Macau has territorial waters the size of a postage stamp, and no marina facilities worth mentioning. So when you buy your Cruiser 60, where are you going to keep it and where are you going to go with it? The 2019 Asia-Pacific Yacht Industry High-Level Forum, an integral part of the Macau Yacht Show, took an oblique look at these questions. The answer to the first is – we don’t know; but it is to be hoped that a continuing programme of ‘opening up’ in the Greater Bay Area will eventually allow free transit of pleasure and leisure boats between Macau and nearby ports on the Pearl River. Presently, transit between Hong Kong and Macau, both free ports, is relatively easy. If access to (for example) Nansha (where there is a large and empty marina) was equally simple, it would be a good thing.

After all, all three places are in China, aren’t they, so what’s the problem? If you can move a boat between London and Oslo, or between Dieppe and New York - why not between Hong Kong and Nansha? Yes, we understand, it is all about regulations. Liu Dian-Fang, Executive VP and Sec Gen of the Xiamen Yacht Industry Assoc, said a good deal about creating regulations that would make sure that the boats are safe, and the people who run them are safe, too. Instead of reinventing the wheel, why not simply adopt MCA regulations?

Increased connectivity within the Greater Bay Area (GBA) is going to shake up leisure boating along the Pearl River, from Hong Kong to Macau to Guangzhou. Today, Macau is the gambling capital of the world, and where there are high rollers there’s plenty of cash. This yacht show started well and went downhill; now it's back, and has every opportunity to go from strength to strength. The biggest concentration of leisure boats in Asia - Hong Kong - is just a HKD66 (USD8.40) bus ride away, and right now Hong Kong HAS NO BOAT SHOW!

Once upon a time Macau dominated trade on the China Coast; today it is strategically positioned to be a leader in the development of the regional marine leisure industry, and the Macau Yacht Show is well-positioned to be where the world comes to see what’s happening hereabouts.

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