The Korea Herald


All at sea

By Korea Herald

Published : May 4, 2012 - 19:35

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Experience the thrill of yacht racing in Hwaseong

The mercury is rising and it feels like summer is already here. Those looking for a place to cool off might consider doing so out at sea.

While Korea, with its islands and coastline, is ideally situated for yachting as a leisure activity, the culture is only now slowly taking root across the country.

If you want to experience the sheer thrill of yacht racing, consider visiting Jeongok Marina in Hwaseong, Gyeonggi Province, this month.

One can fully experience the adrenalin rush of competing while sailing on a real racing yacht during the Korea Match Cup, which kicks off on May 30.

The Korea Match Cup is one of the nine stages of the Alpari World Match Racing Tour, which is the world’s leading professional sailing series held around the world, including Germany, France and Malaysia each year.

A match race is all about strategy and tactics as the race format is a one-on-one battle between two identical boats. 
Two yachts compete during the 2011 Korea Match Cup offshore in Jeongok Marina, Hwaseong, Gyeonggi Province. (Sail Korea) Two yachts compete during the 2011 Korea Match Cup offshore in Jeongok Marina, Hwaseong, Gyeonggi Province. (Sail Korea)

In the Korea Match Cup, participants are matched up against each other in a round-robin competition, with the boat that wins the most grabbing the title. The goal is merely to finish before your opponent. In each leg, two boats race around an oval course two or three times before the winner crosses the finish line.

A unique feature of the race is the addition of a cameraman’s stand on the deck which ensures thrilling onboard video footage. And spectators also have the chance to take the cameraman’s stand and watch the race on board.

On April 20, a group of first-time sailors had the opportunity to feel the thrill of racing during the Korea Match Cup qualifier held at Jeongok Marina.

It was a clear day, and eight boats were at the start line for a quick examination before starting the race.

Our group had to check our weight first before a small rubber boat took us to the yachts.

“We put similar weight in each boat to make it fair for the race,” our guide explained.

On each yacht, four crew members, including a skipper, who takes the steering wheel and commands the vessel, were on board.

“You must stay tight in the back of the boat, and not disturb the crew during the race,” the guide warned us.

After receiving brief instruction, we were finally ready to get involved in a real race.

Understanding the rules will help to better enjoy the race. When boats travel in opposite directions in a crosswind, the boat with the wind coming from its left should give way.

Overtaking is not allowed during a cross-wind and the boat behind must keep clear.

Match racing also has on-the-water judging with umpires following each race and making instant penalty decisions ― the boat with a penalty must do a 360-degree turn before crossing the finish line.

“Starting is crucial in match racing,” said William Tiller from New Zealand. Tiller and his crew suddenly got busy in the cockpit with a 7-minute starting sign.

A 5-minute warning gun signaled the beginning of a furious one-on-one battle with the two boats vying for the lead position on the course.

Unlike other sailing competitions, match racing creates a very close, aggressive competition in which collisions can easily occur.

On that day, the two boats vied for control, circling each other and trying to grab the lead in an elaborate game of cat and mouse.

As the 21-year-old skipper shouted directions, the rest of the crew executed the orders simultaneously.

Tiller and his team put the yacht through some maneuvers before taking the lead.

Tiller kept urging his crew, and the team worked on the foredeck, lifting, dropping and changing sails in unison.

As soon as his boat turned the corner, Tiller hoisted a spinnaker ― a large sail that is designed specifically for sailing downwind.

The spinnaker ballooned out like a parachute in front of the deck, pushing the boat toward the finish line. Then suddenly the race was over.

“With a strong breeze, confined racing area and incoming tide it was tough, but we really enjoyed the race,” Tiller said after winning the qualifier final.

He also praised the local organizers for developing the leisure sport here.

“The first year there was noting, but now it has become like a real race marina,” he said.

“When we first held Korea Match Cup nobody could have imagined what would have been achieved in just four years. But it has now become Asia’s premiere sailing event,” said Kim Dong-young, CEO of Sail Korea, who launched the Korea Match Cup in 2008.

Kim said the Korea Match Cup has helped more people get into the sport of sailing here.

“We have a sailing school here, and every year we see an increasing number of people learning sailing,” he said

The Korea Match Cup, he added, is not solely limited to the event itself. His aim is to make it a stepping stone to develop the leisure boat industry.

Despite its status as the world’s No.1 shipbuilder, however, Korea still plays a minor role in the global maritime leisure industry, he admitted. But he believes it is only a matter of time before Korea becomes a leisure sailing powerhouse.

“The government is planning to expand the leisure sailing and yachting sector and as you can see there are big development plans for building marinas across the country,” Kim said.

Marking its fifth anniversary, the Korea Match Cup will be held together with an international boat show as part of the Gyeonggi Province’s annual maritime festival.

This year the annual sailing event, which is scheduled from May 30-June 3, will invite the world’s top 60 crews from seven countries.

“We expect more than 250,000 visitors this year. We hope to create a marine leisure business here,” Kim added. For more information about the Korea Match Cup visit

By Oh Kyu-wook (