When Mike Simpson talks about freedom, he may not rival Mel Gibson’s rousing speech as William Wallace in Braveheart, but he’s still pretty convincing. And these days the word has a double meaning for the man who founded Simpson Marine in 1984 in Hong Kong, where he still lives on Lamma Island and makes his way to his Aberdeen office and back driving his long-serving Windy speedboat.
Simpson believes freedom is ultimately what yachting is about, leading to the company’s tagline, ‘Yachting Freedom Since 1984’. And he also chose Freedom as the name of the Beneteau Oceanis 46.1 he bought last year, over two decades since he last owned a sailing yacht.
“That word is in the Simpson Marine tagline for a reason. It captures the whole idea of sailing, enjoying the sea breeze and the oceans. It’s all about freedom, this sense of escape. That to me is the greatest enjoyment of boating, getting away from all the pressure of work, of city life,” says the Managing Director of Asia’s largest yacht dealership, who employs over 100 staff in seven territories.
“It’s just the exhilaration of it. When you’re out on the water, you’re cutting yourself free. There’s this sense of total escape and freedom. It’s always with me whenever I get out on the water. You’re out in a different world and you can just let the pressure and stress drop away. Freedom is a metaphor for sailing.”
Simpson has sailed in many parts of the world including North and South America, Europe, Africa, and Asia, and it was sailing that brought him to this region. Having been traveling since retiring from the British Army in the 1970s, he was in Taiwan when he started building a yacht to sail around the world.
Although he reached Singapore on his first attempt and Hong Kong on his second, each time somebody took a liking to his boat and made him an offer he couldn’t refuse. On the third attempt, Simpson ended up selling his yacht in Singapore again and received an order for another yacht.
“The penny finally dropped and I realised I had stumbled on a business opportunity,” he smiles.
Beneteau was the first major brand that Simpson started representing and he’s now in his 36th year as a dealer for the iconic French builder. He took it on in 1985, a year after creating his company and a year before the launch of the Oceanis line.
Since he last owned a sailing yacht in the 1990s, his sailing has included occasional days out and regattas on friends’ boats in Hong Kong and elsewhere in Asia, as well as longer cruises during summer holidays in Europe, where he keeps a house in France.
However, Covid scuppered his usual summer plans last year as boating activity and ownership in Hong Kong had enjoyed a sharp rise, with residents, unable to holiday abroad, spending more time exploring their own city’s natural attractions. It was partly Covid and partly luck that led to Simpson finding Freedom.
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