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Tuesday, August 18, 2015, 12:07

Climbing on board the yachting craze

By SHI JINGand ZHANG XIAOMIN in Dalian, Liaoning

As training centers spring up across the country, clients are lining up to obtain a pilot’s license and run a motorized yacht.

Climbing on board the yachting craze
An instructor goes through a training session with clients hoping to qualify for a pilot’s license in Shanghai. (Photos provided to china daily)

Chen Jiahui runs his own Internet company in Ningbo, a city in northeast Zhejiang province, and learned to pilot a yacht last year.

A self-confessed “water sports enthusiast”, he plans to buy a small boat in the near future.

“Piloting a yacht is much more difficult than driving a car,” Chen, 35, said. “You have to learn a complete set of new skills, such as understanding ocean currents, reading a radar screen and controlling the direction of the boat.”Chen was amazed how tough the examination was before he received his pilot’s license. “It’s very hard and strict,” he said. “But it was worth it. Now I can sail by myself.”Learning to pilot a motorized yacht and obtaining a license have become fashionable here, according to the 2014 Chinese Yacht Industry report released by the China Cruise & Yacht Industry Association. Around 900 people qualified for a license in Xiamen, a major city in the southeast province of Fujian, last year. Another 120 people passed their pilot’s test in Qingdao, Shandong province, while the number of applicants for courses doubled in Dalian, Liaoning province.Already there are 11 certified pilot schools offering courses for budding seafarers in Guangdong province.“The proliferation of yacht piloting training centers is an important step forward to make the Chinese industry complete as it continues to grow,” Zheng Weihang, executive vice-president of China Cruise & Yacht Industry Association, said.The Shanghai International Cruising Yacht Club set up a training center in Ningbo five years ago and now has 600 members, with 120 taking courses in the past few months. About 30 percent of the applicants looking to obtain a pilot’s license are aged between 20 and 35 years old. Many plan to work in the yacht industry in the future.“But the majority of members, or 70 percent, are entrepreneurs who own yachts and are aged between 30 to 50 years old,” Tan Feng, general manager of Shanghai International Cruising Yacht Club, said.

Climbing on board the yachting craze

One of the reasons these training schemes are proving popular is because the industry is growing rapidly. Last year, sales of yachts hit 8 billion yuan ($1.25 billion), up from the 4.15 billion yuan in 2013. And despite the price tag, which ranges from 200,000 yuan for a small boat to 100 million yuan for a luxury cruiser, more wealthy Chinese consumers are buying yachts.

This has fueled the market for training centers as novice seafarers rush to obtain a pilot’s license. “Some of those training will decide to use yacht clubs to manage their boats,” Tan said. “But a growing number of them will apply for pilot licenses. There are also yacht owners who have asked their personal chauffeurs to take these courses.”

Surprisingly, the country’s super rich are not the only ones driving the market.

Middle class consumers have caught the sailing bug and now have the cash to pursue their new hobby. This in turn has created business opportunities for yacht clubs and schools in coastal regions.

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