Mike Simpson's Growing Passion For Yachting And The Sea
Prestige Singapore|October 2021
If one man could claim responsibility for affluent Asians’ growing passion for yachting and the sea, that might well be Mike Simpson. He tells his story to Jon Wall.
Jon Wall

His tall figure has been a well-recognized presence around the typhoon shelter ever since he berthed his yacht alongside the Aberdeen Marina Club in Hong Kong almost 40 years ago. In those days, Mike Simpson was a one-man band, living aboard his boat, meeting fellow sailors and occasionally, over a beer or two, selling them a yacht. Now he heads one of Asia’s leading yacht sales, charter and management companies, with a team of almost 100 based in 12 locations across the region, from Singapore to Bali. And yet this freedom-loving Englishman had never intended to build a business at all.

Although Simpson says that he’s told his story several times, it’s a yarn well worth repeating. “If you want to start from the beginning,” he says, “I came to Asia to build a yacht for myself, in Taiwan, with the intention of sailing it around the world. For about 10 or 12 years before that, I’d been traveling in different parts of the world on foot and by boat, and I’d ended up in Greece running a yacht charter fleet.

“My girlfriend at the time was a keen sailor who’d helped to deliver a yacht back from Taiwan and told me what great boats they built there. In those days I wasn’t terribly impressed with the Taiwan-built sailing yachts I’d seen, which were clipper-bowed and heavily built, but one day a beautiful 46-foot, center-cockpit cutter sailed into Mandraki harbor in Rhodes, where I was working. I wandered over, introduced myself, and the owner showed me around – and it turned out that it was built in Taiwan.”

Convinced, the pair decided to head out to Asia, where they’d build their dream yacht; this was at the tail end of the 1970s. “The idea was to sail around the world – though, of course, we’d have to make some money to cover our costs en route. Maybe we’d charter the yacht or work on other people’s yachts, or in a boatyard – you did whatever you could to earn money on the way, that’s how it used to be.”

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