The Entertainer: Anson Chan on his Galeon 500 Fly
Head of the Bonds Group of Companies, Anson Chan started boating again a few years ago, reviving one of his favourite childhood pastimes. Today, his customised Galeon 500 Fly is his welcome escape from work and favourite place for entertaining. By Andrew Dembina.
In case running a large international conglomerate with the assistance of his two siblings isn’t hectic enough, Anson Chan You-cheung is also in his second year of part-time study for a PhD on
China-US diplomatic and strategic relations.
Chairman and CEO of Bonds Group of Companies, founded by his parents in the 1960s, Chan arrives at our interview during a business call, after which he ignores numerous incoming phone alerts as we spend time aboard his Galeon 500 Fly, which he strives to enjoy in a frenetic schedule.
Due to Covid-19 travel restrictions, though, he has recently been able to nudge up his average frequency of use from monthly to weekly, allowing him to more frequently savour a pastime he first enjoyed as a youngster in Hong Kong in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
“My father (Dr Chan Shu-kui) had his own boats with full-time crew. He loved to go out with our family, but my mum (Dr Anita Chan) hated it,” says Chan, who later studied in the US and Canada.
“Back then, there were only motorised Chinese junks available that took forever to go anywhere, going along at five-10 knots. It was an unusual luxury for a family to have a private boat. Up to when I was about 10, we went out quite a lot and I really loved it. But when my father passed away [in 1973], my mother quickly sold the junk.”
Chan was also exposed to sailing through his cousin Orlando Chan and still occasionally lends a hand as crew. “Orlando was one of the earliest non-expat members of the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club,” he explains.
Chan’s company has properties across Asia, North America and Europe
“He’s 86 now and an incredibly avid sailor, along with his son. I still go out with them on their 38ft Beneteau, which is quite old now but beautifully maintained. I help with the ropes and the sheets, but I’m not an expert.”
NEW CHAPTER IN YACHTING
Following many boat-free years for Chan and his family, in 2013 he decided to buy his first modern motor yacht.
“After making a large profit on a merger and acquisition deal in the UK, I decided to reward myself a little bit and bought a Fairline 42,” he recalls.
“It was a nice boat, with a top speed of 32 knots, and I couldn’t believe how fast it was to get anywhere after all those years of patience in slow junks. It was very reliable, the finish was very nice and I had it for about five years, but it was a little small for entertaining guests.”
In mid-2018, he traded it in with Asiamarine, headed by Eric Noyel, and bought the iconic Galeon 500, whose drop-down sides and rotating cockpit sofa made the Polish-built ‘transformer’ a global favourite.
Chan with Eric Noyel, founder and CEO of Galeon dealer Asiamarine
“I only had to wait till early 2019 for delivery,” says Chan. “I would have had to wait for longer, but Eric has a very good relationship with the Galeon shipyard and heard that someone who had ordered a 500 had dropped out, so he called me immediately. I was pleased to go ahead and only had to wait six to eight months.”
Chan hadn’t heard of Galeon before he first saw 500 model in 2017 at a boat show in Shenzhen, China. “I was impressed with the way folded areas would open up; it was almost like Japanese origami.
Customisations included a retractable sunroof, the first one Galeon had installed on the 500
“I also liked that they were able to make customisations I wanted, like the retractable sunroof on the flybridge. It was the first one they had ever done and after that they produced more of these as an option.”
DAY CRUISE BELIEVER
Chan’s pleasure boating is always day cruising and his use is very sociable, sometimes with up to a dozen friends on board.
The flybridge and adjustable foredeck are other popular hangouts on Chan’s Galeon 500
“One of the great things about this yacht is that there are so many areas that people can use to break off into small groups,” he says. “There are a lot of sitting areas where you can chat, listen to music, have some drinks.”
A bar counter off the port side of the saloon has stool seating on deck, and when that space is extended with by dropping the bulwark, it becomes one of Chan’s favourite spots for a glass of something while gazing at the horizon.
Also much-loved by the owner is the signature Galeon rotating sofa at the cockpit, which can be positioned for any view of a locale that takes his or a guest’s fancy, as the circular platform beneath its base can turn a full 360 degrees.
Chan: “There are so many areas that people can use to break off into small groups.”
He and his guests are also fond of sitting at the large table on the flybridge deck and on the sofa and pop-up tables at the bow. Sometimes Chan cruises out to sea with a few other friends that bring their yachts. “Mine’s considered small,” he says. “Most of my friends have 70-footers or 100-footers.”
He selected most of the optional extras such as a stabiliser, luxurious leather trim upholstery and high-gloss eucalyptus wood panel detailing.
“Even though I don’t really use it, I like the master cabin, which is much larger than you’d expect for a boat of this size,” he says of the three-cabin yacht.
For power, he took Asiamarine’s advice for twin Volvo Penta 725hp shaft drives, due to being easier to maintain than the Volvo IPS 950 with the same horsepower.
Covid-19 may have allowed Chan to spend more time in Hong Kong and on his yacht, but it has also affected Bonds Group, a multi-national investment company with a wide range of businesses including real estate development and investment, property management, hotel operations and financial investments.
“Most of our hotels have had just 20 to 30 per cent occupancy for months,” he says. “It’s a tough time, but I’m trying to keep as many of those staff employed as we can – it’s real corporate social responsibility. Upward social mobility for our staff is very important.”
Chan also believes in moderation, due in large to the words of his late mother, whom he succeeded as head of the Bond Group following her passing in 2007.
“My mum always used to say, ‘There’s someone up there who determines how much you enjoy in your lifespan; if you enjoy too much, you’re going to shorten your lifespan – if you eat and drink too much, you’ll get a heart attack’,” Chan recalls.
“People should live reasonably modestly. They should enjoy life, but with some moderation, and pay their fair share of taxes, so governments can function properly and help those who are less fortunate.”
Aside from yachting, art is another of Chan’s outside interests and he’s most keen on the contemporary and pop genres. Yachting aspirations for Chan include eventually up-sizing his boat and to cruise around the Greek islands one day. He’s also keen to finally get his Pleasure Vessel Operators Certificate of Competence (PVOCC).
“I’ve flunked it twice, so I’d really like to take it again and hopefully I could then do some of those trips,” he says. “I’ll always have a yacht. When I grew up, my dad always had one and, after a hiatus, I want to carry on that tradition. I’d really like to see more people in Hong Kong connecting to the water that we have all around us.”
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