Tiger Mok will be Hong Kong’s sole representative at the Volvo Ocean Race 2017-18, the world’s largest and most prestigious sailing event that takes place every three years.
“This is the biggest moment of my sailing career,” Mok said. “I have been following this race since I was nine years old. When I was first approached about potentially joining the crew, I thought they were joking. You never imagine an opportunity like this could be so close.”
This year, each team will travel 45,000 nautical miles, or 72,420 kilometres, touching six continents and 12 host cities which, for the first time, includes Hong Kong. The race, which begins next month, will end in June next year.
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Mok, 37, was recruited to join Team Hung Kai or “Scallywag” – the first-ever Hong Kong-based team in the Volvo race – partly because of his knowledge of local waters. He will play the role of back-up navigator, and is expected to be on the boat for the important Hong Kong legs.
“Hosting the Volvo Ocean Race for the first time will be a huge benefit for the sailing industry and a great opportunity for the public to see the other side of sailing,” he said.
Incredibly, Hong Kong is the most important city in the entire competition this year. Three of the 11 legs revolve around Hong Kong, while all the other cities will host no more than one race.
One leg will take sailors from Melbourne, Australia, to Hong Kong, another from Hong Kong to Guangzhou and back, and finally, from Hong Kong to Auckland, in New Zealand.
Surprisingly, Mok says he does not feel any pressure being the only sailor from Hong Kong taking part in the race. “It’s a big step up but I’m not nervous,” he said. “As a sailor you need self-confidence and self-belief. I just think this is a wonderful, unique opportunity to promote sailing.
“Of course, I wish there were more local sailors on the team, but that’s up to the crew to decide.”
Mok’s father introduced him to sailing when he was just seven years old, and he’s been in love with the sport ever since. Although he has sailed professionally for 20 years, he’s had to do office jobs to make a living.
Now that he is in the Volvo Race, his dream of being a full-time sailor has finally come true. Mok hopes his story will inspire more young local sailors to aspire to become professionals and encourage more people to take up sailing as a hobby.
“We all know how little space there is in this city, and how stressful it can be,” said Mok. “When I was working in an office, I would look forward to getting out on the boat every weekend. It feels like a different world out on the water. To me, sailing is essential for peace of mind.
“Some people think that sailing is an expensive sport for an exclusive society, but it’s really not. You don’t need to own a boat – anyone can do it.”