Sports boats — a breed apart

Talk about fun! Sports boats are just perfect for the conditions in Hong Kong being light, nimble and capable of great turns of speed. There is nothing better than hiking out or being on a trapeze at 17 knots in a cloud of spray! Or equally satisfying doing 5 knots with the kite up in just 3 knots of breeze, watching other boats disappear in your wake. If you have a need for speed then these boats are your one-stop adrenaline rush.

The fun recipe is a combination of large sail plans and easily driven hulls. The boats are dry-sailed, meaning no antifouling and less maintenance and their large cockpits make an inviting space for racing and cruising alike. A small outboard (2-3hp) gives you flexibility without electrical issues. As they are comparatively light, the gear on the boat is ‘oversized dinghy’ and so comparatively inexpensive and easy to maintain.

The formula is empowering women in sailing and we have two owning and racing their boats and a number of female crew who so enjoy being part of the team, often seen hanging onto a 500-square-foot kite in a Force 5 . . . with no winch or cleats! Skill and teamwork is more critical than brawn. Hannah Lee has just bought a Magic 25, joining Julie McKenzie who has been sailing a GP26 for some time now, and she has been up front in many races.

All the designs are relatively modern, well balanced and light on the helm. Controls are the absolute minimum with at most a backstay, but no runners and the like. To make sailing even easier there are some important features :

• large roach fully battened mainsails not only last longer but are easy to substantially de-power. Just by letting the main out a few inches the leach twists off and the large head of the sail starts to feather, levelling the boat up. So it is possible to sail with a comparatively light crew and be able to handle big gusts

• an asymmetric kite is easy to use: once the pole is pulled out the kite jybes in the same way as a jib. No-one needs to be on the foredeck, which is much safer and there are no awkward manoeuvres in changing a conventional pole from side to side

• light easily driven hulls mean that you get onto a plane very early and from there the boat just accelerates. Typically, in a Magic 25, once three people are on the wire downwind the boat speed is at 15 knots. The harder it blows the more you have to bear off and on Merlin we have recorded speeds of over 25 knots. Such a blast!

• the large cockpits are self draining and the low transoms are ideal for swimming.

• small outboard motors mean that whatever the conditions you can get home safely

There are a range of sportsboats here in Hong Kong, varying from the European models which often have rails like the GP26 and J-70 or the Longtze where all the crew hike out. Aussie and Kiwi boats are more extreme, typically with trapezes like the Magic 25 or wings. We are lucky to have a Welbourn 25 in Hong Kong, which has been
tweaked extensively by Paul Murphy. It is now only 329kg all up with wings and trapezes. An underwater foil on the leeward size creates a large righting moment so the top speeds achieved are simply phenomenal, apparently over 30 knots.

The class offers many types of boat to suit your pocket and your racing preferences, and you can opt for a simple one design or go for all out tweaking and speed.

The Hong Kong Sportsboat Association (HKSBA) provides great social events like the dockside get-togethers after racing, as well as hugely successful parties with belly dancers, flame throwers, puppet shows and all sorts of fun and games. There are discounts at various F&B outlets in Hong Kong including the Staunton’s group. As an HKSBA member or associate you also get a free copy of Fragrant Harbour delivered to your door!

If you are looking to buy a boat, prices range from as little as HK$50k for a second-hand Magic so, in terms of knots for dollars, these boats are some of the most inexpensive on the market. Hard standing at RHKYC is about HK$1,500pcm and a set of sails HK$35k, which last about three years as they are fully battened and carbon. The boats are now licensed with the Marine Department and you do need a PVOL license.

If you want to have more fun than anyone else on the water come and join us. You can find out more information from our website ( or our Facebook page ( or contact class president, Steve Bourne at

Bourne’s banter
In the Magic 25 class rules, the first line reads ‘Everyone shall have fun’. Taking a page in Fragrant Harbour means that the Hong Kong Sportsboat Association can get that message to over 20,000 people regionally. Currently, sportsboats are competing in the Quest Yachting Typhoon Series, UK Sailmakers Summer Saturday Series and the Sunset Series, and you can read all about it here and on our website . . . you can follow us on facebook

We would like to welcome to the fleet, Hannah Lee, who has just bought Fly by Wire and has been madly practising every weekend with her brother . . . and they are already looking very competent particularly at balancing on stationary objects. Chan Wing has bought the ‘Red boat’, Catch 22, and they have already shown their skills beating Steve Bourne in Race 3 of the Typhoon Series by a mere 2 seconds! Cem Yurdum has bought a spanking new GP26 and will be joining Julie Mackenzie and Jim Daly as part of the up and coming GP26 fleet! Joe Chan will be getting Ironman out and so it looks like a full line up this season.

There are a couple of boats still for sale including a Longtze but you had better be quick! It is going to be an action packed season.

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