Photography by Wang Bin
23 May 2017
A serious racing yachtsman with a circumnavigation to his credit, Wang Bin is leading a new wave of interest in offshore sailing in China. The entrepreneur behind the UBOX team that came third overall in the 2016 Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, Bin famously declared he wouldn’t give up until gets a Rolex. Sails magazine asked this passionate sailor about his plans to expand China’s ocean racing program.
Congratulations on your third overall on IRC and first in ORCi in the 2016 Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race. Why did you decide to tackle a race known for its harsh conditions?
The Rolex Sydney Hobart is one of the sailing world’s great bluewater events and the most accessible for Asian teams. We did the Rolex China Sea Race in our Swan 82, and the next logical challenge for the team was the Rolex Sydney Hobart.
The race’s reputation for being tough made us aware of the need to be thorough. We were careful to find the right boat, and then make sure both the boat and crew were best prepared for whatever the race threw at us.
What was the reaction to the UBOX team’s achievements in China?
We have been surprised and delighted by the reaction to our performance, which began right from when we decided to enter the race. Our start was covered by Chinese television for the first time, and our success was conveyed by the People’s Daily website within just a few hours of our finish.
What were the highlights of the race from your perspective?
The shared delight of my friends who travelled to Australia to see us off from Sydney and continued to Hobart to welcome the team into Constitution Dock. It was a very emotional time for all of us as the team’s performance exceeded all our expectations.
Did the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race meet your expectations?
It certainly exceeded all my expectations regarding excitement, our team’s achievements, and the hospitality of our hosts, the CYCA and RYCT. The whole experience has left me feeling it was extremely worthwhile, and with a point of pride in the whole team that made our twin podium finishes possible.
What did you enjoy about the atmosphere in Sydney in the lead–up to the race, and in Hobart at the finish?
Everyone was busy with their preparations, but nodded to each other in passing – all the crews knew they were facing the same potential challenge. It was good to see that even at this level of competition all the sailors had that common bond. As a new team from a new country, we were welcomed into our first race, even though we were all competing against each other.
UBOX’s great performance was reported in China, have you found the interest in ocean racing there is growing?
Our sport is indeed growing in China. It takes time, though. Not just to encourage people to buy boats, but it takes time to develop the skills needed to safely compete on the ocean.
You have said that you would like to grow the sport in China, is your partnership with the Dongfeng Race Team part of that?
Our link with Dongfeng was of three-way benefit. Dongfeng gained some valuable extra sea miles with which to view some team members with potential, our UBox crew had the opportunity to see a world-class skipper at work, and of course, the combined efforts produced some excellent publicity for our sport in the mainstream media instead of being hidden on the sports pages.
What are the plans for the UBOX program? Which races will you do this year?
We’re still considering which races and regattas we will compete in with either the Cookson 50 or the Swan 82, but it would be a shame to have two such wonderful boats and not compete in as many regattas as we have time to do. Perhaps the 2017 Volvo Hong Kong to Vietnam Race, and the Rolex China Sea Race 2018 along with a few the Asian circuit regattas.
What is your ultimate goal in ocean racing?
It’s hard to say. Sailing is my sport, not my career, so the priority for me is to enjoy the races and regattas I am involved in. We’re lucky that sailing can be so varied, which means there are so many potential goals to achieve. Having just bought, but not yet really got to know the Cookson 50, my focus certainly in the short term is to learn and enjoy this wonderful boat further.
You started sailing in 2003 and skippered the first Chinese yacht to complete a circumnavigation. Can you tell us why it has become such a passion for you?
Sailing gives me both freedom and a challenge, which is quite different to my business life. Many of the organisational skills are similar, but nature can always offer new and unexpected challenges and delights.