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Waves of excitement for tired crew

By Xie Chuanjiao in Qingdao, Shandong ( China Daily )

Updated: 2018-03-20

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Thrills and spills of round-the-world race make impression on Chinese duo

Chinese sailor E Xianghong is hungry by name and hungry by nature.

The 24-year-old, whose surname sounds the same as the Chinese word for "hungry," has just completed a 50-day stint competing in the Clipper Round the World yacht race.

And after battling hair-raising storms and coping with sometimes "uncivilized" conditions on board the Qingdao, E was particularly hungry to return home.

 Waves of excitement for tired crew

The racing yacht Qingdao heads to its port last Thursday en route to second spot in the overall standings after finishing fifth in the race from Sanya to Qingdao. Wang Xiangsheng / For China Daily

"It is great to be back. I felt emotional when I saw our boat moving on the GPS map and approaching the final destination," said E, who joined the Asia-Pacific leg of the race in Australia in late January before stopping over in Sanya and finishing in Qingdao last Thursday.

"About 18 hours before the boat crossed the finish line, I was too excited to fall asleep so I stayed up all night."

The Asia-Pacific leg is considered one of the trickiest sections of the race to navigate.

During one particularly daunting seven-day period, winds of up to 40 knots battered the Qingdao, leaving one crew member badly injured after he fell from an upper bed.

"We could not have a normal life on board under such tough conditions. We could not have a good rest or even go to the toilet," said E, a graduate of Qingdao University of Science and Technology who took up sailing about four years ago.

"Cultural and linguistic differences also caused communication problems."

The Qingdao finished fifth in the race from Sanya to Qingdao but, by racking up bonus points at a "scoring gate", secured second spot in the overall standings.

"Of course we could have used a conservative strategy to finish in the top three, but then we could not have challenged in the overall rankings," E said.

Liu Yulei, the boat's other Chinese crew member, was just as psyched by the journey as his compatriot.

"I want to see more of the world and have new experiences on the ocean," said 23-year-old Liu, who received a month's training in Britain prior to the race.

"Even having enough training and being well prepared, I still faced a lot of difficulties in the race, especially the unpredictable weather."

Liu was in awe of the sense of camaraderie among the international crew, with members on duty for six hours during the day and four hours at night.

"No matter what the difficulties and how tired they were, they were always devoted," Liu said.

"They tidily wore their uniform when starting duty and always ended the shift soaked to the skin."

Waves of excitement for tired crew

E and Liu were selected to race through the Qingdao Ambassador Program, which has been running since the Clipper Race first partnered with the city of Qingdao in the event's 2005-06 edition.

The program aims to promote China's "Sailing City", build on its 2008 Olympic legacy and inspire more Chinese to participate in the sport.

Over the past 13 years, the program has produced promising new talent such as Guo Chuan and Vicky Song, who became the first Chinese woman to circumnavigate the globe when she completed the 2013-14 Clipper race.

This is the seventh time the race has included Qingdao as a host port, with the partnership secured until 2019-20.

However, it's the first time the race's fleet berthed at the newly constructed Wanda Yacht Club, a state-of-the-art facility in Qingdao West Coast New Area.

Chris Kobusch, Qingdao skipper, said: "The race from Sanya to Qingdao was very interesting. It was a tough start and it was upwind, but then it was a nicer finish for the team and it was mostly downwind conditions.

"Coming into port with the fireworks and seeing all the people come out to support us was incredible."

A delegation led by Zang Aimin, vice-president of Qingdao Major International Sailing Events (Festivals) Organizing Committee, welcomed all the teams as they reached the dock.

"Over the past 14 years, the Qingdao has sailed round the world six times. This, its seventh time, has been her best performance so far," said Zang.

"We hope that our ocean warriors will enjoy wonderful times in our city."

Founded by Robin Knox-Johnston, the biennial Clipper Round the World yacht race usually lasts 10 months and covers about 40,000 nautical miles.

To date, about 40 percent of crews have had no sailing experience before registering for the race, giving about 5,000 people the opportunity to realize their nautical dreams.


Qingdao charting a true course

Leveraging its Olympic legacy, Qingdao is establishing itself as one of Asia's premier sailing hotspots.

In return, the sport has triggered growth in other fields and helped drive the city in Shandong province toward becoming an international metropolis.

"After hosting the 2008 Olympic sailing event, Qingdao has been highlighting its 'Chinese sailing capital' brand by hosting several world-class events," said Zang Aimin, vice-president of Qingdao Major International Sailing Events (Festivals) Organizing Committee.

Over the past decade, the city has served as host port for many international sailing events, including the Clipper Round the World yacht race, Volvo Ocean Race, Extreme Sailing Series and ISAF Sailing World Cup.

"The city has cooperated with the Clipper Round the World race for 14 years and the Clipper yacht named after Qingdao has circumnavigated the world seven times, which has promoted the city's image and reflected its internationalized process," said Zang.

"The cooperation with Clipper has extended to 2020 and I hope it will go deeper."

Qingdao is also applying to host the 2020 International Optimist Regatta and 2021 Laser Radial Women's World Championship.

The city's shipbuilding industry is also thriving. Since the 2013-14 season, the clippers used in races have been manufactured by Qingdao Mazarin Yacht Co Ltd.

According to Ji Gaoshang, director of Qingdao Sports Bureau, the number of sailing schools reached 107 last year, training a total of 2,000 youngsters.

Zhang Xiaodong, chairperson of the Chinese Yachting Association, said Qingdao has been leading in Chinese sailing sport and the sport has become a shining name card for the city.

"The sport of sailing tends to boost to a city's economy and infrastructure development," said Zhang.

"The booming sailing events will help ordinary people experience the sport's charm and give professional sailors more opportunities in competition."

Waves of excitement for tired crew

Waves of excitement for tired crew

(China Daily 03/20/2018 page24)