Exclusive Local News Singapore

Hyflux Saga: What Happened, and What’s Next

On 13 August, Hyflux announced that an unsecured working group of bank lenders (UWG) has filed its application for a judicial management order, following an extension of the deadline from 7 August to 12 August granted by the Singapore High Court. 

Justice Aedit Abdullah gave the green light for the filing of the judicial management order last month, taking into consideration UWG’s case that they could no longer trust Hyflux’s management for any restructuring efforts. Justice Aedit Abdullah had previously rejected the judicial management order, but reiterated that the application could be revived if needed. He stated during a hearing last May, “A moratorium is meant to be a temporary solution to allow a company to put something together… but it doesn’t mean I can give a blank cheque for the moratorium going forward.” 

If given the go ahead, this order would allow the group of bank lenders — Mizuho, Bangkok Bank, BNP Paribas, CTBC Bank, KfW, Korea Development Bank, and Standard Chartered Bank — to carve out their respective shares from Hyflux’s debt moratorium. 

This is the second time that the UWG has applied for a Judicial Management Order. The first was done in May 2019, but was met with resistance from Hyflux, which refuted that judicial management applications often lead to liquidation of a company. 

Hyflux had its break in 2001, when it became the first water treatment company to be listed in Singapore, and secured the water treatment project to supply and install the process equipment for the Newater plant in Bedok. The company then went on to clinch other major projects, such as the third Newater plant in Seletar, the SingSpring Desalination Plant. 

Another success came a decade later, when Ms Olivia Lum, CEO of Hyflux, became the first Singaporean and the first woman to win the Ernst & Young (EY) World Entrepreneur of the Year award. That year, Hyflux also won Singapore’s second and largest seawater desalination project, which led them to propose building an on-site 411 megawatt combined cycle power plant to produce electricity for the desalination plant and power grid — the Tuaspring Integrated Water and Power Project, which formally began its operation in 2016. 

However, Hyflux’s foray into the energy business did not go as well as predicted. 

With the dip in electricity prices in Singapore, the Tuaspring Integrated Water and Power Project registered a net loss of S$81.9 million at the end of 2017. 

The loss of profit can be attributed to various factors. According to Associate Professor Lawrence Loh, Director of the NUS Business School’s Centre for Governance, Institutions and Organisations, Hyflux’s risk management committee met only once in the 2017 financial year — a red flag considering the high-risk nature of their business. 

There have also been questions raised about the management practices within the company. In an interview with TODAY, NUS corporate governance expert Mak Yuen Teen, pointed out that Hyflux’s board of directors may not have adequately questioned Ms Lum’s decisions, as the latter is known to have a strong personality. 

Another problem could be due to the fact that the eight-member board includes two former employees — which present a level of conflict of interest. Non-executive independent director Christopher Murugasu was Hyflux’s senior vice-president for corporate services and Mr Gary Kee, a non-executive non-independent director, was its executive director overseeing areas such as corporate finance and information technology. Having ex-employees on the board could be problematic, as boards are meant to represent shareholders’ views and monitor the management. 

As such, after reporting a year of consecutive profit loss in 2017 and the first quarter of 2018, Hyflux decided to appeal to the High Court for a supervision of business and debt reorganisation. A 6-month debt moratorium — filed under Section 211B of the local Companies Act — was also granted, hence protecting Hyflux from court proceedings from creditors and investors while restructuring was underway. This would allow Hyflux to focus on discussion with investors, optimise operations and complete ongoing projects to generate some cash flow.

The moratorium has since been extended multiple times to accommodate Hyflux’s efforts to restructure — much to the frustration of more than 34,000 investors, who have been seeking reprieve since 2018. 

To add on to their problems, Hyflux’s restructuring process has also been shaky, as a significant portion of local bonds have been bought by individual investors, leading to difficulties in uniting investors when it comes to decision making. 

Amidst these troubles, another stumbling block appeared in late January 2020, when Hyflux’s legal advisor expressed intent to resign, owing to a “lack of confidence”. The company has retorted by saying that they too have lost confidence in their existing legal advisors, and have since appointed new ones.

So, what’s next for Hyflux?

Hyflux has undergone negotiations with various investors in a bid to save their business. Some of these entities include Middle Eastern utility firm, Utico, Pison Investments led by Johnny Widjaja, Unilegend Investments, and Aqua Munda. 

Out of all these potential suitors, Utico and Johnny Widjaja through Pison Investments have been touted the ‘white knights’, as both have outlined their desire to save Hyflux from its financial troubles. In an agreement which took months of negotiation to materialise, Utico offered to take a 95% stake in Hyflux, in exchange for a $400 million ‘rescue’ deal whilst Pison Investments have set aside $200 million for debt repayment and working capital. Mr Widjaja believes in the potential of Hyflux and aims to integrate Hyflux’s water treatment services with the coastal industrial estate he plans to build in Java . 

As the possibility of judicial management looms, Hyflux has to choose on a rescue package soon or face the prospect of liquidation which often happens to companies under judicial management. The fate of many retail investors numbering close to 34,000 and their prospects of recovering any part of their investments will be known in the coming weeks.

Adventure & travel Asia Destinations Lifestyle Singapore

Undiscovered Hiking Trails in Singapore for Your Next Weekend Adventure

What plans do you have for the upcoming weekend? If, like us, you’ve spent most of the week in an office chair in front of a computer screen, there’s no better time to stretch your legs and enjoy some fresh air.

Hiking has become one of the most popular things to do in Singapore, with some hotspots seeing high footfall over the weekends. If you’re looking for something a little quieter, head to these undiscovered trails in Singapore for some well-deserved nature lovin’ — sans the crowds! 

1. Kranji Marshes 

Kranji Marshes is Singapore’s largest freshwater marshland, containing 57 hectares worth of natural and green habitats. Home to three unique biomes, the area is home to 170 species of birds, 54 types of butterflies, and more. You might also chance upon an estuarine crocodile or monitor lizard along the way!

Head up the Raptor Tower for a panoramic view of the area. Bird enthusiasts will also be delighted to discover species like the Grey-headed Fish Eagle, Purple Heron and Changeable Hawk Eagle. If you’d like to learn more, join the free ‘Evening Chorus at Kranji Marshes’ guided tour through the core conservation area, which is usually not open to the public.

How to get there: Take the Kranji Express Bus from Kranji MRT Station to the D’Kranji Farm Resort, followed by a short walk to Kranji Gate.

2. Bukit Batok Nature Park

Witness a slice of history at Bukit Batok Nature Park, which was developed on an abandoned quarry back in 1988. During the Japanese invasion, one of the most vehement battles took place at the Bukit Timah area. Bukit Batok Nature Park is home to a hill that overlooks the battleground; a WWII memorial was hence constructed on this very hilltop to commemorate the lives lost during the battle.

In addition, the park offers multiple hiking trails that offer magnificent views of the lakes and granite quarry. 

How to get there: Take buses 61, 66, 157, 178, 852 and 985 to Bukit Batok East Avenue 6.

3. Tampines Eco Green

Hidden away between the Tampines Expressway, Tampines Avenue 12, and Sungei Tampines, Tampines Eco Green is a secret park that pays homage to all things natural. True to its theme, the park has no lights or pavements. It doesn’t even have a flushing toilet; instead, its toilet is a compost-based one! The park’s signboards and benches are also made from recycled and environmentally-friendly materials.

Take your pick from three trails — Diversity Trail, Forest Trail and Marsh Trail — through secondary forests, vegetated swales, and more. Keep your eyes peeled for any of the park’s 75 species of birds and 35 species of butterflies! The park is also home to the Hanguana Rubinea, a native flower that’s found only in Singapore.

How to get there: 20-minute walk from Tampines MRT Station.

4. Thomson Nature Park

Be spoilt for choice at Thomson Nature Park, which boasts five trails that span a total of 3.8 kilometres. Previously a Hainan Village, bits of its heritage have been preserved in the form of old village houses, old street signs and the remains of a rambutan plantation.

Check out the Run and Figs Trail, as well as the Stream and Ferns Trail. If you’re lucky, you might even chance upon a Raffles’ Banded Langur, an endangered primate; or the Sunda Pangolin and Malayan Porcupine, both of which are highly elusive.

How to get there: Take buses 138, 138A, 167, 169, 860 and 980 to Upper Thomson Road.

5. Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve

Comprising the first ASEAN Heritage Park, Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve is a haven for nature and wildlife lovers. Home to some of the island’s richest biodiversity, the swamps of Sungei Buloh are home to 140 species of birds, mudskippers, tree-climbing crabs, mud lobsters monkeys, otter, civet cats, monitor lizards, and even the occasional estuarine crocodile! 

The Migratory Bird Walk’s Aerie Tower is a prime spot for bird-watching, especially during the migratory season. To find out more, there are free guided walks available every Saturday at 9.30am.

How to get there: Take Bus 925 from Kranji MRT Station to Kranji Reservoir Carpark B.

If you’re raring for an adventure of bigger proportions, tackle the Coast to Coast Trail, a mega 36-kilometre route that stretches all the way from Coney Island to Jurong Lake Gardens. Along the way, you’ll also pass through Punggol Waterway Park, Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park, Macritchie Reservoir Park, the Rail Corridor, and Bukit Batok Nature Park. 

Alternatively, the North Eastern Riverine Loop is a 26-kilometre trail that runs through Buangkok, Sengkang and Punggol — including Punggol Promenade and Lorong Halus Wetland. This trail is also suitable for cycling if you don’t wish to go entirely on foot! Another option is the Western Adventure Loop, which connects the five parks of Bukit Batok Nature Park, Jurong Lake Park, Zhenghua Park Dairy Farm Nature Park, and Choa Chu Kang Park.

That’s exactly what we love about Singapore — it may be a metropolitan city but, look close enough, and you’ll find little pockets of green space scattered all around that are the perfect escape from all that hustle and bustle.

So, which of these hiking trails will you explore first?

Local News Singapore

Troubled Times at Singapore Companies

There is a saying that when it rains, it pours. That saying could not be truer for several Singapore companies which have been heavily impacted by the biggest global health crisis since the 1918 Spanish Flu.

One-two punches

Once a promising company which briefly counted Temasek Holdings as an investor, Hyflux made its name providing water treatment technology expertise and project management. It has since been brought to its knees by a one-two punch, namely the oversupply of natural gas in 2018 and the oil market crash in 2020, exacerbated by the global pandemic, which have seen a prolong weakness in electricity prices.

In 2016, several years prior to a COVID-19 pandemic, Hyflux was already deep in financial turmoil. However, a collapse in the demand for oil caused by the pandemic led to a crash in oil prices and thereby lowering the profits of electric power generation. Since Hyflux’s projects integrated water treatment with power generation, it meant that the drop in electricity price caused substantial losses for the company. For its Tuaspring project in Singapore, Hyflux estimated electricity prices at $220 per MWh. At the time, Hyflux had the intention of selling excess electricity to the national grid to offset the low cost of supplying water to PUB. Unfortunately for Hyflux, electricity prices have trended only downwards and presently are approximately $81 per MWh. With $1.6 billion in debt, the fate of Hyflux now remains in the hands of UTICO, an Emirati company; Pison Investments led by Johnny Widjaja; Aqua Munda, a Singapore register chemical company; and a consortium comprising of unsecured working group (UWG) of banks — Mizuho, KfW, Bangkok Bank, BNP Paribas, Standard Chartered Bank, CTBC Bank, and Korea Development Bank — who have recently applied to the courts for the company to be placed under judicial management.

Similarly, Singapore’s marine industry have also endured a one-two punch of its own — first with the cyclical weakness in shipping, and secondly with the COVID-19 pandemic that hammered oil prices. As a result of closing its Singapore yards for months due to the pandemic, Sembcorp Marine posted a net loss of $84 million in the first half of 2020. While production gradually resumed with the lifting of island-wide circuit breaker measures, Sembcorp Marine have also implemented salary cuts across the company and job cuts. Sembcorp Marine’s rival, Keppel Offshore and Marine, similarly cut jobs this month. In 2017, it had already cut 1250 jobs and the economic disruption brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic means the recovery of Singapore’s offshore and ship building industry remains gloomy. Both parent company Keppel Corp and Sembcorp Marine are partly owned by Temasek.

One almighty punch

One almighty punch can be sufficient to wipe out a business. In 2020, that one punch is COVID-19.

Knocked out by COVID-19, around the world airline bankruptcies have been par for the course, with only those receiving government aid as the likely survivors of this global health crisis. Thankfully for Singapore Airlines, majority shareholder, Temasek Holdings, will no doubt continue to provide full backing, and the national flag carrier will likely survive this crisis. Having said that, it faces a monumental challenge ahead.

The current situation at Singapore Airlines has deteriorated due to a much longer than anticipated time before air services can resume. Unlike larger countries which have a domestic air network that may still function in a global pandemic, a carrier like Singapore Airlines is highly susceptible to international travel restrictions such as mandatory quarantines.

The resultant precipitous drop in demand for air travel means Singapore Airlines is facing its greatest challenge yet in its seventy-three-year history. According to data from International Air Transport Association (IATA), revenue-passenger-kilometer in April 2020 has dropped by 94.3% on a year-on-year basis. The SIA Group is currently operating at only 4% of its pre-COVID routes and a load factor of just over 10%. As the reality is setting in that the resumption of air services could happen much later than hoped, the company is staring at an extended period of operating in survival mode.

Given the magnitude of the decline in air travel, the fact that no definitive time line is set for the resumption of air travel, and no certainty that SIA’s capacity will be the same size as pre-COVID, it is inevitable that job cuts would occur. Currently, more than 22% of its 27,000 staff are on no-pay leave, and there is a company-wide pay cut among other measures that have been rolled out. However, even with the Singapore Government’s Jobs Support Scheme (JSS) extended till March 2021, covering 50% instead of the current 75% of wages, it is likely that staff retrenchments will come sooner rather than later.

Investing in a Pandemic Economy

Yet as tumultuous a time as it is for its subsidiaries, Temasek have been adding to its estimated $306 billion portfolio, prudently taking advantage investment opportunities created by market volatility.

In its recent 13F filings with the US Securities and Exchange Commission, Temasek added to its stake in the world’s largest asset management firm, BlackRock, worth approximately $4.8 billion. Meanwhile Temasek have also purchased additional shares in Chinese bio-pharmaceutical companies, China Biologic Products Holdings and Beigene.  In addition, earlier this month, Temasek and Bayer AG’s impact investment arm, Leaps by Bayer, announced a new joint-venture called Unfold. Combining seed genetics and agriculture technological experts, the new company hopes to develop crops specially designed for the unique requirements of indoor vertical farming.

Meanwhile, Temasek have pulled out of a recent deal to increase its stake in Singapore’s Keppel Corp due to Keppel’s financial losses. Certainly, Temasek’s recent investments in bio-pharmaceuticals and high-tech agriculture is a hint at how investing in a COVID-19 world will look like going forward, and that for now, perhaps the best investment opportunities lie outside Singapore.

Asia Local News Singapore

Singapore Will Not Return to Pre-COVID days

In a press conference held on Tuesday (11 Aug), Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing announced that Singapore needs to move in another direction, after describing the nations “worst quarterly performance on record”.

The Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) now expect a year-on-year contraction of 5% and 7%, compared to the initial 4% to 7% projection. 

Private economists’ predicted a downward drop of 12.9%. However, the nation’s quarterly gross domestic product (GDP) declined by 13.2% year on year in April through June, a sharp 0.3% decrease from the first quarter. The MTI informed that “the outlook for the Singapore economy has weakened slightly since May”.

The anticipated return to the old normal is hoped for by many. Unfortunately, quick recovery and return to the ways of the past are gone. The “painful truth” is that “we are not returning to a pre-COVID-19 world” and that recovery will be slow and unlikely to be smooth sailing. 

“We can expect recurring waves of infection and disruptions,” he said. 

Mr Chan also highlighted a few global changes that Singapore has to anticipate. The geopolitical landscape that provided Singapore with the opportunity to grow and thrive in the last five decades has changed, due to tensions amongst the major powers. He highlighted that Singapore has to avoid being between the conflicts of major powers. 

“We must avoid being caught between the conflicts of major powers or be stranded in a fragmenting world of trade relations and technological standards,” he added.

The global landscape has changed irrevocably, with global companies reorganising their production and supply chains. Some companies are also reviewing the need for regional hubs and the way their operations are organised to serve different markets. New investments will be making its way to Singapore, but some existing ones may seek to diversify elsewhere. 

Mr Chan also added that “It is a fluid landscape and we must do everything we can to defend our capabilities and capacities.” 

The nature of jobs has also changed, with remote working becoming the norm, allowing for more global job opportunities to be available for Singaporeans. Still, the nature of remote working will also let other workers in other countries do the same jobs from their homes. Some job posts have advertised openings with the opportunity to work in Singapore or remotely, which affects many PMET jobs, as such work can be done virtually or through automation and AI. 

Changes in the economy will also result in more societal frictions and tensions, as those who have more and those with less will contend, and issues such as foreign and local employment, and citizenship, will also arise. 

“We will need to better take care of those affected by job and business losses. We have and will continue to do these in a sustainable way that is not divisive, affirm the dignity of work and strengthen our social fabric. These tensions, unless well managed, can divide our society,” he said.

The way forward for Singapore is muddled, but staying still is not an option. The fluidity of the entire situation means that every factor and circumstance is fast evolving. However, the government regularly update the people on the economy and job situation, sector by sector. 

Three principles were outlined for Singapore’s moving forward. 

Firstly, the country will open for business safely and sustainably. Mr Chan said that “it will not be a binary option of open or close. It can be done. We must stay open while isolating the impacted clusters quickly and tightly.” 

Secondly, the government will extend help to businesses and workers, helping them adapt to the new normal. Firms with opportunities will be provided with a boost for growth, as this creates more job opportunities for workers. Examples of such firms include those in info-communications technology, biopharma, supply chains, and precision engineering. Companies experiencing a drop in demand now but have the potential to recover will have their core capabilities preserved so that they can come out of this stronger. Companies will also receive help in cash-flow, from schemes such as Jobs Support Scheme to rental relief scheme. Assistance is extended to companies whose industries have gone in another direction due to reinvention and adaptation. 

The last principle includes supporting businesses through establishing the “right macro conditions,”, Mr Chan said. The government will strengthen connections with the world for markets, supplies, technology and talent, to preserve Singapore’s competitiveness. 

In a novel move, Singapore will engage in digital free trade agreements to open more markets for businesses, while maintaining existing access to conventional markets. 

The future may be unpredictable, and it may be challenging to pull through. However, the minister assured that the government is still committed to every Singaporean, mentioning that instead of waiting for the situation to calm down, they will start preparations now. 

Italy Sailing Sports USA

More Sailing Event Cancellations Amid COVID-19

The month of August opens on a sour note for the sailing buffs. Three glorious sailing events have been called off. Many sailing events and regattas have been affected by COVID-19 and the travel restrictions associated with it, and it looks like July disappointments have spilled over to August as well.

2020 Melges 24 U.S. National Championship

In an announcement addressing the teams, the U.S. Melges 24 Class Association President Megan A. Ratliff confirmed that the event, which was slated for 15-18 October had been cancelled. These events typically attract many travellers, which could pose a health risk to the people, especially the elders. Hence, there are tight regulations in place regarding the size of events to reduce the health risk.

“We continue to be optimistic and pray that the situation surrounding COVID-19 improves,” Ratliff states in the announcement.

“Please know that your board is working hard, exploring options for a safe return to conducting our Class championships. I am confident that we will be on the same starting line soon. In the meantime, stay healthy and safe.”

2020 Formula Kite Worlds

The Italian resort island of Sardinia was prepping to play host to two major events — the Formula Kite Individual competitions and Mixed Team Relay Worlds. The reason, once again, is the travel restrictions in different parts of the world, which allows only European contestants to participate in the race. So, though there were no regulations imposed on the International Kiteboarding Association, the organizers decided to call off the event in the best interest of all participants.

The Mixed Team Relay World was the first event planned in Olympic format. The event was scheduled for 13-18 October in Torregrande. The Formula Kite Individual Competitions were slated for 6-11 October. The event was first planned in Weifang Binhai but was later shifted to Cagliari.

The next edition regatta will be held in 2021. Weifang Binhai would host the Formula Kite Individual Competitions in September 2021, while the Mixed Team Relay World will happen in Torregrande, in October 2021.

2020 RenaissanceRe Junior Gold Cup

Founded in 2002, with a vision to expose the junior sailors in Bermuda to international sailing regatta experience, the RenaissanceRe Junior Gold Cup plays a vital role in nurturing long-lasting associations with international sailors and Bermudians. the RenaissanceRe Junior Gold Cup is organized for teenage girls and boys aged between 12 and 15. The organisers think that it would be too much of risk to bring teenagers to Bermuda amid the pandemic.

“At the end of the day the risks involved did not match the reward as the full experience of the Junior Gold Cup would not be realized in 2020,” organiser of the RenaissanceRe Junior Gold Cup Dede Cooper said.

“It was a difficult decision and one that makes me sad as this is such a wonderful event for the youth sailors. As always, we are grateful to RenaissanceRe for their continuing support and look forward to welcoming everyone back to Bermuda sometime in 2021 for the 18th RenaissanceRe Junior Gold Cup.”

2021 RenaissanceRe Junior Gold Cup dates are yet to be announced.

International News USA

Behnken and Hurley: The First Crew to Travel in a Privately Made Capsule

30 May 2020 witnessed a historic moment when SpaceX’s space capsule, Crew Dragon, carrying astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken docked at the International Space Station (ISS). They returned on 2 August 2020 and became the first astronauts to do a space expedition in a space capsule developed by a private manufacturer.

While explaining the atmospheric entry of Crew Dragon, the astronaut duo said that the space vehicle came “alive”, and it vibrated and shook. “I did record some audio of it, but it doesn’t sound like a machine. It sounds like an animal coming through the atmosphere with all the puffs that are happening from the thrusters and the atmospheric noise,” Behnken said during a virtual press conference held post-landing.

“The atmosphere starts to make noise, you can hear that rumble outside the vehicle and as the vehicle tries to control, you feel a little bit of that shimmy in your body.”

Behnken explained that the sensation while riding down was “very much like getting hit in the back of the chair with a baseball bat, you know, just a crack”.

The space capsule undocked from the Space Station on Saturday, 1 August 2020, two months after they landed at the ISS. It plummeted through the earth’s atmosphere, gaining magnitude as it descended and plopped down in the Gulf of Mexico on Sunday, 2 August 2020.

The process of landing was a strenuous one. An hour before the touchdown, the space capsule ejected its trunk and fired its thrusters and exited from the orbit. Soon after entering the upper atmosphere, the outer surface of the Crew Dragon heated up, reaching a temperature of 3500 Fahrenheit. Close to landing, the capsule fired the parachutes and splashed down in the sea at 2.48 p.m. ET. The recovery vehicles deployed by SpaceX met the capsule soon after the water landing to get the astronauts out of the seawater.

Hurley said that due to the stressful descend and scorches on the capsule, they couldn’t see anything clearly after landing. “[Atmospheric] reentry is a pretty demanding environment as you know with the different scorches on the vehicle, and the windows were not spared any of that,” The Verge quoted Hurley.

“The look out the windows, you could basically tell that it was daylight but very little else. So we didn’t really see anything clearly out of the windows until the SpaceX recovery crews got near with the fast boats, and then we can see a head or two out there.”

The duo stated that the simulations and trainings that helped them complete the mission successfully, without any “big surprises”.

Though the coast guard had laid down some restrictions for other boats at the landing site, boats thronged the touchdown site defying the warnings, creating much confusion to the retrieving crew. The successful completion of the mission opens the possibility of SpaceX Crew Dragon to be certified for regular space service.  The next mission is scheduled for September this year. The Space Shuttle program veterans Behnken and Hurley had been coaching with SpaceX for the last five years.

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Next Edition of Ocean Race To Commence in 2022

The next edition of the Ocean Race, one of the toughest competitions in the sailing sport, has been scheduled for October 2022. The event will start from Alicante, Spain in October 2022 and finish off in Genova, Italy in 2023, the year that marks the 50th anniversary of this prestigious race.

This international sailing competition has scheduled stops in ten international cities across six continents. The organisers, for the first time in the history of the race, have released the confirmed event schedule for the next 10 years. A feasibility study for the European race slated for the next summer is also underway. This 10-year plan is a result of an effort to help the sailors, sailing teams, partner cities, and associates across the world to face the changing reality during the current pandemic crisis as well as through the post COVID-19 times. The organisers have invested time to collaborate and develop a positive way forward to an improved and stable future for all stakeholders.

The impact of COVID-19 on sailing, just like any other sport, has called for strategic planning involving the stakeholders and consultants to device a path forward in the current circumstances impacted by COVID-19 and beyond, through the changing sporting landscape.

Richard Brisius, the Race Chairman of The Ocean Race, shared “Since 1973, The Ocean Race has been one of the toughest challenges in sport. Winning teams have showcased that proper preparation is the foundation for success. We now find ourselves in unprecedented times and our first priority is with all those who have been and continue to be affected by the pandemic.”

“Winning The Ocean Race is still a big ambition for me”, says Peter Burling, Olympic and America’s Cup champion. He debuted in the Ocean Race in 2017-18.

“I know how much effort and planning and preparation it takes to put together a successful campaign. Building in this extra year ahead of the next race increases the likelihood of strong, well-prepared teams being ready on the start line in Alicante. I think this is a well-considered and good decision.”

A six-time race veteran and the co-founder of W-Ocean Racing, Chris Nicholson says, “The world has changed with COVID-19 and again we will witness the resilience of sailors, stakeholders and organisers of The Ocean Race. We have all lost significant time right at the crucial moment and this change is the right move. This will now allow us the time again to re-focus our efforts and be part of this great event.”

Racing with Purpose

Racing with Purpose, the prizewinning sustainability programme, is built upon the commitment to create a healthy marine ecosystem. Innovative workshops and summits are planned as part of this program, and the Genoa, Italy will be hosting the first edition. As an effort to inculcate the values in children, Racing with Purpose has developed a multi-lingual, curriculum-based immersive learning programme for school children, helping them understand the detrimental effects of plastic pollution on ocean ecosystem and our planet. It tells them how they can participate and contribute to the good cause. On the racing front, they are continuing to expand their ground-breaking innovations such as state-of-the-art technology using renewable energy on their racing boat classes like VO65 and IMOCA 60.

Destinations International Sailing Sports USA

Luke Muller Selected to Join U.S. Olympic Sailing Team

After the stunning performance earning a bronze in 2020 Hempel World Cup Series Miami following a 17th place in World Championship 2019, Luke Muller secured his place in the U.S. Sailing Team for 2020 Olympics. He becomes the 11th sailor to qualify for the U.S. sailing team for Tokyo Olympic Games 2020. This is going to be his debut in Olympics. The 24-year old sailor was training hard with beat his teammate Caleb Paine, the bronze medallist at the 2016 Olympics.

“It feels incredible to know that I will have the honour of representing our country at the Olympic Games next summer,” Muller said of his selection.

“It is very gratifying that all the hard work and sacrifice has resulted in this accomplishment. At the same time, I feel a profound responsibility to represent the US Sailing community as best I can. I continue to strive to be as prepared as possible and if I do my job it will be a great pleasure to race against the best in the world.”

Started as a recreational sailor, Muller became serious about the sport and made consistent progress with hard training. No wonder he holds the record of being the youngest champion of the U.S. Laser class. Later in 2014, before registering at Stanford University, Muller shifted his focus to the Finn to pursue his Olympic dream. He trained hard with his partner Paine and coach Luther Carpenter and made notable achievements like securing the third spot at the World Cups in 2019 and 2020.

Muller competed with Paine and Eric Anderson to secure his place in the Olympic team. He topped in two of the three qualifying trial events. The third trial, the 2020 Finn Gold Cup, has been postponed to October due to COVID-19 pandemic.

Head Coach of US Sailing Team Luther Carpenter shared his joy, “The news of Luke’s Games selection is very exciting for our Finn program.”

Recollecting the training period, Carpenter said, “We continue each day with the tasks at hand. The energy and commitment of our Finn sailors is at an all-time high, and the results we are seeing and the confidence it inspires is extremely encouraging. Luke’s progress this summer in fitness, goal setting, and technique has surpassed the targets we set in May. Both Luke and Eric Anderson, his training partner, are putting in the real-deal Olympic effort! I’m proud to be their coach.”

After the long break due to the pandemic, Muller is back to his on-the-water training. He utilised the COVID 19-induced break to work on his tactics and to focus on conditioning and weather. He is excited to receive the official confirmation of the nomination and is training hard to prepare for Tokyo.

“The plan remains the same. My coach Luther and I along with Eric Anderson have always strived to reach the highest levels of our discipline and we will continue to do that,” said the sailor.

Regarding the game strategies, Muller said, “We are working to dial in our Olympic equipment and refine the subtleties of technique as well as the tactical and strategic aspects of the game.”

Italy Sailing Sports

Swan Cup to be held in September

The 2020 edition of the biennial Rolex Swan Cup is slated for 7-13 September in Porto Cervo, Sardinia. Organised by Yacht Club Costa Smeralda, the regatta aims to promote sailing and to bring together those who love water sports and the sea. Over 60 yachts will compete under the theme ‘Celebration of the Sea’ in the 21st edition of the race that lasts for a week. The event marks the re-kindling of the competing spirit after months-long hiatus due to the COVID-19 global crisis. The event is upheld as an opportunity to mark the watershed after the pandemic crisis and the imposed time apart.

Spanning across seven classes selected from the classic and modern eras in the history of the boat brand Nautor’s Swan, this race is one of the biggest sailing events set to happen this year. This is the second regatta of the Mediterranean season 2020. The seven classes competing in the race are the Swan Maxi Class (vessels that are 60 feet and above), Swan Grand Prix Class (vessels under 60 feet), the vessels belonging to the Swan One Design Classes (ClubSwan 36 class, ClubSwan 42 class, Swan 45 class and ClubSwan 50 class) and the Sparkman & Stephens Class.

For the health and safety of the participants, the organisers will ensure that all the guidelines laid by the Italian government are met. Week-long post-race activities harmonising with the race theme ‘Celebration of the Sea’ are planned to engage the sailors.

“The Rolex Swan Cup will be one of the first sailing events after a season of enforced rest and we are amazed by the response we’ve already had in terms of participation,” said Nautor Group Vice President, Enrico Chieffi.

“More than 60 yachts have already registered, confirming that our owners are thrilled to participate in the regatta and they can’t wait to start racing again all together in Sardinia, celebrating their love for the sea, the sport of sailing and our brand.”

The race will feature the brand’s newest models in the competition. This includes the revived version of the evergreen classic Swan 54 class, as well as the yachts from the bluewater range including Swan 48, Swan 65 and Swan 78. What excites the participants and spectators is the chance to see one-design foiler — the ClubSwan 36 class — the award-winning class that bagged the Innovation Award in the ‘European Yacht of the Year Awards 2020’. The yacht is admired as the radical one-design sports boat.

The event will also feature the new Maxi Swan 98 in the water for the first time.

“Nautor’s Swan is excited to introduce the new era of Maxi Swan with the Swan 98 to the world next September,” Giovanni Pomati, Group CEO shared in one of the articles published by the brand.

“She is a modern masterpiece of design and construction, the perfect blend of performance, elegance and luxury. She is destined to become a timeless superyacht.”

Culture Lifestyle Singapore

Singlish: A Cornerstone of Singapore’s Culture

A ten-year-old boy once looked at his parents and his two siblings before proudly declaring with gusto: “I am English, not Chinese”. This boy was me many years ago, except if one were to look at my NRIC, one would clearly see that it reads “CHINESE” for race, and nobody in my line of ancestors have come from the United Kingdom. In truth, I was simply being a cheeky boy, trying my absolute best to avoid the Mandarin tuition classes which I found myself all too often in.

It took me until I reached adulthood before the intertwining relationship between our unique cultural identity and the languages we speak became salient. It is with this mindset that I came to appreciate our colloquially spoken language of Singlish as an important cornerstone of Singapore’s culture. So as a strong proponent of Singlish, let me give you several reasons why I think Singlish should not be abolished.

Singlish gives Singaporeans our identity

Singapore has all the trappings of a modern city and country with its glass skyscrapers, glitzy shopping malls, and world-class airport. Yet many of those elements can be found in other modern cities too and the real points of difference lie in the people themselves and the culture that characterises them.

When abroad, it is not uncommon for Singaporeans to recognise other Singaporeans instantly and unmistakably when we hear phrases like “can meh” or “cannot lah”. This is proof that Singlish as a language forms part of our identity as Singaporeans.

Singlish truly represents Singapore

Singapore’s multi-racial society means Singlish has become a melting pot for the different races that make up society. Singlish has been known to absorb and use the words of all the different races to adapt to the needs of its users. Singlish is one of those marvellous cultural icons because it is made from our multi-racial people into one united language and one unique cultural tapestry. Furthermore, one of the reasons why Singlish is commonly used in informal settings is because of its efficiency. We require simply require fewer words to communicate our intended message. We as a country pride ourselves by our efficiency in numerous fields, it is therefore extremely apt that our colloquial language of Singlish mirrors that same ethos of being efficient. Singlish simply embodies the Singapore spirit and represents us in a manner that not many other cultural landmarks can.

Singapore has few things which are unique to our cultural identity

While many countries have accumulated and formed distinct cultures surrounding food, art, music, sports, music, and beyond, Singapore is a young country with not many traits unique to its culture. Apart from local food and our pragmatic approach to governance, Singapore has very few cultural landmarks. Thus, it is even more critical that we hang on to Singlish as a national treasure.

The need to preserve national culture

One must bear in mind that Singapore is a highly cosmopolitan city with a diverse mix of people from all over the world. According to Statista, in 2019 there were about 2.16 million immigrants (classified as people living in a country in which they were not born in) in Singapore out of approximately 5.7 million. That is almost 40% of the total population in Singapore. Moreover, in a city state like Singapore, we do not have secondary cities with the population numbers to absorb the influx of new people and with them the cultures that they bring.  It is therefore even more critical that local languages unique to our cultural identity should be preserved.

A language worthy of celebration

I think of that young ten-year old boy I once was. Except for perhaps my still poor command of Mandarin, I could not be more different from that boy now. Today, when Singaporean friends of mine based overseas return to Singapore, I cannot be prouder to welcome them back home with a healthy dose of Singlish. I know a part of me knows that seeing someone dear will always be an elated moment, but part of me also knows that hearing Singlish, conversing in a familiar language after being away for so long, is just as poignant. Whether we consciously or subconsciously recognise them, it is in those moments where I strongly feel this language that binds all Singaporeans are worthy of celebration. Or as they say in Singlish: “This one confirm must celebrate lah”!