A self-confessed Sydney Hobart lunatic, skipper David Witt is looking to lift the spirits of a nation as SHK Scallywag 100 tries to become the first Asian yacht to take line honours in the great race.
The supermaxi, owned by Malaysian-born Hong Kong-based Seng Huang Lee, finished fourth in 2019.
Under previous owner and iconic Australian sailor Syd Fischer, the boat then known as Ragamuffin 100 finished third in 2014 and second in 2015.
She will battle with rival supermaxis LawConnect and Black Jack, each of which has won line honours under another name.
Asia has provided two overall honours winners in the race with Hong Kong’s Ceii III in 1973 and Beau Geste, representing Hong Kong and China, triumphing in 1997.
Lee, who was raised and educated in Sydney’s eastern suburbs, won’t attend this year’s race as he only recently finished a 21-day quarantine in Hong Kong after returning from the United Kingdom.
Witt said a line honours win would justify Lee’s faith in him.
The skipper believes a victory would have an even bigger impact on sailing in Hong Kong than when another of Lee’s Scallywag boats won a leg of the prestigious Volvo Ocean Race in that country in 2018.
“I think this can be even bigger for the sport, especially given we’re coming out of COVID and there’s still a lot of restrictions in Hong Kong,” Witt said.
“So there’s going to be a lot of people watching it and Hong Kong can do with some positive stuff at the moment.
“I think it would be a massive boost not just for Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club which we represent, but also the whole country in general.”
Lee and Witt have already made a substantial contribution to nurturing sailors in Hong Kong, where around 800 underprivileged kids have passed through a foundation set up to teach them how to sail.
Witt this year joins the list of sailors who have done the Sydney Hobart 25 times.
“I’m a lunatic because it means I keep coming back, but the focus of this race isn’t me doing 25, it’s about Scallywag winning the race,” Witt said.
Witt recently returned to competitive sailing after an enforced hiatus of almost two years.
“I can’t remember going that long without sailing a boat,” he said.
“We were stuck in the Philippines for 10 months, couldn’t leave, couldn’t do anything,” Witt said.