Thursday, September 24, 2009

Patrick Lim buys up sailing’s F1 tour

Lim helped found the controversial Monsoon Cup. — Picture by Guy Nowell (

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 23 — Tycoon Patrick Lim, who helped found the controversial Monsoon Cup in Terengganu, and several business partners have bought a major stake in the company that holds the rights to organise the World Match Racing Tour (WMRT) — the F1 of the sailing world.

Monsoon Cup advisor and champion Datuk Peter Gilmour has been named acting president of the rights holder ProMatch Tour Ltd, which Lim and friends acquired via their Hong Kong-based private company Regal Faith Ltd from F10 Holdings Ltd.

“Our sport is rapidly expanding in the commercial area; with the backing and support of a significant balance sheet to build this Tour we are delighted to be able to make this long awaited announcement. It has taken over three years to finalise this transaction and we will see considerable new plans develop over the coming months," Gilmour said in a statement.

The WMRT rights acquisition comes amidst a private-public sector initiative to set up a 1 Malaysia F1 motor racing team or Lotus F1 as named by the FIA, with airline tycoon Datuk Seri Tony Fernandes as team principal.

Both Lim and Fernandes were once closely associated with former Prime Minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi. While Fernandes built up Air Asia to be a regional budget airline, Lim focused on Abdullah's Penang hometown but a change of government saw him losing the right to build the RM20 billion Penang Global City Centre (PGCC) project.

Lim, derogatively called "Patrick Badawi" for his close links to Abdullah, later relinquished control of PGCC developer Equine Capital Bhd, stepped down in October 2008 as the company’s chairman and executive director but maintained his interest in sailing.

He attended the last WMRT leg, the Danish Open, in Aarhus two weeks ago.

The nine-leg WMRT has seen significant growth over the last three years since being granted the sole and exclusive rights and official sanction to run and manage the professional world tour or series in match racing by the International Sailing Federation (ISAF).

"The sport has seen aggressive development in events, America’s Cup and independent team participation, spectators, media interest and sponsors. We are looking forward to developing the WMRT further as the leading match racing World Series for professional sailors,” said Gilmour, who won the Monsoon Cup for the third time last year.

The statement said the four-time world champion and match racing veteran will be the tour advisor once the company appoints a new president.

The company said its involvement and that of its consortium of private equity investors will focus on developing world-class venues around the world, whilst adding stability and structure to the existing professional sailing circuit.

“Regal Faith Ltd’s investment in the WMRT demonstrates the value that has been built up in the tour over the last three years. The investment will enable us to continue to expand and develop the tour and we look forward to delivering the vision of our new investors,” said tour director Craig Mitchell.

The WMRT just finished its seventh leg in Denmark with the next event being the Argo Group Gold Cup in Hamilton, Bermuda between Oct 5 and 11.

The season-ending final leg is the Monsoon Cup in Terengganu which first began in 2005 and was celebrated as the 50th official event of the Swedish Match Tour. Abdullah initiated the idea during a fishing trip in Terengganu to generate more economic activity in the state that Barisan Nasional won back in the 2004 elections from PAS.

However, the match race has been controversial for its investment and expansion of private villas at the venue in Pulau Duyong, at the Sungai Terengganu river mouth, as opposition and some disgruntled Umno politicians blasted it as a waste of money and corrupting the morals of the villagers who are mainly fishermen or boat-makers.

But the sailing event had ignited interest in match racing and yachting in Asia apart from growing interest in the prestigious America's Cup. Most of those in the Monsoon Cup are sailors who have and will be competing in the America's Cup, as well as Olympic gold medallists.

The Monsoon Cup's success has helped to create the Korea Match Cup and spurred Singapore and Qingdao in China to be venues for the Volvo Ocean Race and Olympics respectively.

The company statement said the WMRT will hold the annual tour summit for all event organisers a day after the World Yacht Racing Forum in Monaco this Dec 1, adding it will unveil its plans for next year's tour after consulting the promoters and stakeholders there.

F10 Holdings Ltd's outgoing president Scott Macleod said he was happy to pass control of the WMRT to Regal Faith Ltd after being involved in the tour for more than 20 years.

"I am very happy to be passing the control of the World Match Racing Tour to the team at Regal Faith Ltd who have the experience and investment to realise the full potential of the tour, I wish them and Peter Gilmour all the very best for the continued development of the tour,” he said.

A view of Pulau Duyong at the Monsoon Cup 2005. — Picture courtesy of Swedish Match Tour/Guido Cantini

The WMRT currently offers over US$1.5million (RM5.25 million) in prize money with the events using the same “match race” format used in the America’s Cup with racing taking place in identically supplied racing yachts which places a focus on team work and skill. Racing takes place close to the shore for the general public to follow the races as virtual on-the-water stadiums.

The tour is currently producing over 12,000 minutes of live and highlight sailing content being broadcast to over 100 countries around the world, reaching over 600 million households. WMRT sponsors include Line 7, Pindar, Custom House, Travel Places, Wedgwood and Sail.TV

No comments: