Vivian Chan looks to be in her element in what she calls the “glamorous side” of the yachting industry, looking every inch the model as she poses for a photoshoot aboard a Sessa F68 Gullwing as founder and Director of VP Yachts, which represents the Italian builder in Hong Kong.
For a couple of weekends before that, she was mingling with representatives of the likes of Ferretti Group, Sunseeker, Benetti, Monte Carlo Yachts and Camper & Nicholsons aboard a Riva 110’ Dolcevita at two events hosted by Voyager Risk Solutions this summer (see EVENTS).
VP Yachts has already sold multiple Sessa motor yachts since the company’s appointment in November 2020, but for Vivian, the circles she now finds herself mixing in seem a world away from her ongoing role as General Manager of Sun Hing Shipyard, founded by her father Chan Ki-in 1981.
“I never got to go out on these beautiful boats until recently. I typically go on a boat to see what needs to be fixed and the only times I really go out to sea was for sea trials. I’ve seen the hull bottoms more than I’ve seen the interiors,” laughs Vivian, who manages her dual roles from the shipyard’s main site, in Shum Wan on the east side of the Aberdeen Typhoon Shelter.
“After I started working for my dad, people kept wondering, ‘who’s this blonde Chinese woman standing on the pontoon’? When I saw my brother working for Simpson Marine, I saw the glamorous side. I always thought it was a world I wouldn’t reach because I was always on the other side, behind the scenes.”
PRODIGAL DAUGHTER RETURNS
Vivian says it was her father’s hope that his children would work in yacht sales, rather than the repair and maintenance field he has specialised in since working at the Supercraft yard in Tsing Yi before founding Sun Hing Shipyard. Despite the family business, Vivian says she rarely spent any time on boats when she was young.
“We didn’t go out boating and I only visited the shipyard a few times when I was young. I didn’t know much about what he did. I knew he liked fixing boats, but he never talked about going on them. I only started going on boats when I started working for him.”
In the early 1990s, the family moved to Canada, initially to Vancouver before settling in Toronto, where Vivian and elder brothers William and Eric went to school. However, unable to find similar work in Canada, her father was back and forth between Toronto and Hong Kong, while both her brothers returned to the city in the early 2000s after graduating from universities in Ontario.
Like Eric, Vivian studied at Ryerson University and gained a BA in Architectural Science. But unlike her brothers, she stayed in Toronto, even after her mother had also moved back to Hong Kong.
It was a family crisis that drew her back to the city to start working at Sun Hing Shipyard in 2011. During a trying time for the family, her uncle decided to start his own business, so the site and staff were split into two, with the shipyards remaining side by side today.
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