COA Council Members 2023
Rex Au Yeung
HHYC - Adam Glendinning
RHKYC - Andrew Chan
DBYC - Gloria Fan
Malcolm A.V. Brocklebank
Originally established in August 1950 as the `Cruising Section’ of the RHKYC, the Cruiser Owners Association is now one of the largest independent, non-profit making, sailing organisations in Asia, which represents the interests of sailors in Hong Kong. The COA organizes races, cruises and other sailing related activities, providing support services and promoting sailing throughout the region.
The first recorded Cruiser Race in Hong Kong was in October 1849 under the auspices of the Victoria Regatta Club. But probably the longest link in yacht racing in Hong Kong, is the Macau Race, one of the first ‘international’ yacht races to be organised in Asia. Initially, a ‘there and back’ non-stop race on Boxing Day, but after the war (probably 1947) the Macau Race was organized over the Chinese New Year holiday, being suspended during the emergence of the People’s Republic of China.
By the late 1960’s (probably 1967) the Cruiser Section became the Cruiser Owners Association and acted simply to encourage competitive sailing for the cruisers around at the time. For the COA, the Macau Race, soon became its most popular event (with more than 60 boats entering during the late 90’s) and “doing the Macau Race” has been a part of the sailing life for more than two generations of sailors in Hong Kong – with our 70th Anniversary Macau Race to come in the year 2017.
The Macau Races make up the leading COA Series and are part of the annual COA Championship Series, which also includes a selection of the other races organized by the four major yacht clubs in Hong Kong.
Membership of the COA is open to anyone with an interest in sailing. Boat owners and part owners may become Full Members and non-owners can join as Associate Members. Our current membership fee is HKD985 per year from 1st January to 31st December, and this can soon be offset by discounts on events and race entry fees organised by the COA. Why not send us your details and we will forward an invitation to the next COA event?
The COA’s main objectives are to promote sailing and to provide a better sailing environment in Hong Kong and a variety of interesting activities. We invite and attract members from all of the Yacht Clubs in Hong Kong to join, and it is hoped that all sailors will lend their support by becoming members of the Association. Our list of activities covers a wide range, including our Mid-Summer Rally which takes us to visit many of the Yacht Clubs in HK and the latest event, The Commodores Christmas Cup which is the first race in HK to be supported by all four yacht clubs.
The COA is governed by its Constitution amended the 26th February 2022, which can be downloaded here.
Download our COA Membership Application Form here.
Cruiser Owners Association
Flat RB, 30/F, Tower 3R,
Hemera, Lohas Park,
Tseung Kwan O, N.T. H.K.
Email address: email@example.com
R. S. S. Hownam-Meek C.P.M.
(written in May 1998)
The C.O.A. – a personal sketch of COA history
In August, 1950, The Commodore of the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club, Stanley Coot, approached Richard Hownam-Meek, to join him, as Hon. Secretary, in organizing the Cruising Section to stimulate both Cruising and Racing.
This was, in no way the foundation of Cruiser Racing in Hong Kong, which, in fact, has a long history dating back well before the foundation of the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club. The first record of Cruiser racing which I have found seems to have been in October 1849 when there were races for yachts not more than 10 tons with the prize of the Governor’s cup, valued at $100, open to all yachts. These races were raced under the auspices of the Victoria Regatta Club. In October, 1999, therefore, will be the 150th anniversary of that Regatta, and should I feel, be suitability marked.
The Rules, although simple, have not greatly changed, in essence, during the last nearly 150 years.
Probably the longest link in yacht racing in Hong Kong is the Macao Race. In pre-war days, this used to be run starting off Queens Pier early on the morning of Boxing Day. Traditionally races were started still in Dinner Jackets straight from the previous evenings Christmas parties. The race itself was non-stop, Macao and back, a rhumb line distance of some 80 miles. The record was held pre-war by the late Noel Croucher’s La Cigale. The present handsome, lidded, silver cup, commemorates this record. There is a good photograph of La Cigale on page 42 of Gillian Chamber’s “Eastern Waters, Eastern Winds”, R.H.K.Y.C’s centenary book – how many yachtsmen today would like to handle a topsail, a bowsprit and a flying jib? The yacht herself was destroyed in Causeway Bay on 15th December, 1941, during the defense of Hong Kong.
The Boxing Day 1932 Macao race may have been a particularly boisterous one as the aircraft carrier HMS HERMES is recorded as having launched Fleet Air Arm planes to search for yachts that were missing!
After the war a one-way race to Macao at Chinese New Year was added and your scribe has very particular memories of the 1951 one, when the fleet was met, as they emerged into the estuary from the lee of Lantao, by a screaming Northerly near-blizzard. Your scribe was the only one on board (our boat) with any semblance of foul weather gear and so was parked at the forward weather corner of the cockpit to give some shelter to the rest of the crew. We reefed right down with storm jib and the yacht was like a half tide rock. In the shelter of the Macao Channel, the skipper ordered a larger jib. Not a soul moved. He repeated the order, before he realized that he going to end up in the muddy waters, so nothing more was said.
There was a desperate shortage of hotel rooms in Macao at that time, so competitors all had to book through the RHKYC and wives had to sleep in a Ladies room. When we reached the mooring area we were met a by a grinning Hon. Secretary with “I don’t know where you’re all going to sleep. Something’s gone wrong with the bookings”. Luckily he could swim, but the Macao Inner Harbour mud did nothing for his appearance or amour propre!!
Chinese New Year 1952 coincided with Mardi Gras in Macao and we were all invited the Mardi Gras Ball at the newly renovated Macao Club – Evening dress or Fancy dress! Nobody dreamed of taking formals, so all of us opted for “pirates” rig - RHKYC’s Pirates Ball being a main social event. As we entered the Macao Club ballroom, we were immediately struck by all the “quality” of Macao being in full evening dress with the ladies wearing their grandmothers’ mantiallas, whilst the ROYAL HKYC were looking like a bunch of tramps!
Due to activities of the militia of the Peoples’ Republic, Macao races were suspended for some 15 or 20 years.
Socially, the Section staged very boisterous stag dinners once a season. Later, under pressure from the ladies, we had to run two, one stag and one mixed each season.
Some time around the late 1960s, the Section became the Cruiser Owners’ Association.
During the 1950s and 1960s, the normal pattern of cruiser racing comprised races at the Opening and Closing Regattas, Harbour Races for the Edmonds Cup on Saturdays, there were also Sunday Races, and the Championship series – one race each:- Hong Kong to port, Hong Kong to starboard, Ninepins, Lamma and Cheung Chau Rock. Cruisers also took part in all comers races such as those for the Hong Kong Memorial Vase, Tomes Cup, and for the Lipton Trophy and had one overnight race per season. The Closing Regatta Race often took the form of a Swedish-style Distance Race, for the Shearwater Trophy, which made for fairly close finishes usually close to the Closing Cruise raft up.
In the 1950s, 1960s and early 1970s Cruiser Owners used traditionally to lunch at Kellett Island, giving their orders to their Yacht Boys and planned a weekend rendezvous with their fellow Owners. Somewhere along the line we must have upset the weather Gods. While the sky was always bright blue on Friday lunchtimes, it nearly always seems to have deteriorated by Saturday afternoon.
From 1962 the Manila Race was run at Easter every even-numbered year. In the 1970s this developed into the China Sea Series, In 1963 (I think?) we had a Race round Pedro Blanco Rock. After that one event, when the Royal Navy realized that Pedro Blanco counted as being within Chinese waters, they provided us with a minesweeper (later a Mine Hunter), twice per season, as an Eastern mark about 40 miles 98 degrees from Waglan. Seeing these small Naval craft rolling out there at anchor for some 9 hours, I used to think that their crews probably suffered more from sea sickness than we yachtsman. Their radio beacons were often so poor that one could only hear the signal when one was more or less moored alongside, so a great deal depended on your own navigator’s skills and wizardry.
Afterwards, it was free beer all around for the R.N crew and a slap up dinner for the officers and we were all in such good voice that our repertoires never seemed to run dry!
In the 1950s and early 1960s handicapping was largely by discussion, but the best handicaps seemed to go to the Owners with the loudest voices. After endless discussions, we went for the Royal Ocean Racing Club system. This evolved about 1970 into the International Offshore Rule system when the RORC and Cruising Club of America system finally compromised and the task of the Measurers became the responsibility of Hong Kong Yachting Association. More recently we use the Channel Handicap and International Measurement Systems. For unmeasured yachts the HKYA system was used, which was largely what the Rating Secretary, in person of Gordon Robinson, from his best sources and his own infinite knowledge of the local fleet, felt the yacht’s IOR rating would be. Recently unmeasured yachts have used a local version of the Portsmouth Yardstick system, which, in turn, has now evolved into a COA system.
Could August 2000, the Association’s Golden Jubilee, provide the excuse for yet another “occasion”?
The Cruiser Owners’ Association is most grateful to Richard Hownam-Meek for taking the time to pen this personal history of the COA. This treasure was lost for more than 15 years and turned up recently in the archives of the COA and we have now kept the original safe. (As far as possible the original text has been used with a few minor edits for layout and clarity.)
Malcolm A V Brocklebank