Chinese teams making waves
From left, Britain's Chris Brooks, Scotland's Seumas Kellock and South Africa's Nick Leggatt will skipper the teams from Qingdao, Sanya and Zhuhai in the upcoming Clipper Round the World yacht race. Provided to China Daily
With strong Chinese representation, this year's edition of the eight-stage Clipper Round the World yacht race is set to prove sailing continues to gain strength on the domestic front.
For the first time in the 23-year history of the race, there will be three Chinese city teams - Qingdao, Sanya and Zhuhai - competing against eight foreign entries over the 40,000 nautical mile chase around the planet.
The race launches in the UK in the summer.
The Qingdao team will be led by British yachtsman Chris Brooks, while Scottish skipper Seumas Kellock will be at the helm for Visit Sanya. World record-breaking Nick Leggatt of South Africa will skipper the Zhuhai team.
Last year's race was a huge triumph for the Chinese entrants, as Sanya capped a remarkable debut by claiming the overall win and skipper Wendy Tuck made history as the first female to ever win a trans-global yacht race.
Team Qingdao continued the Chinese success by finishing third.
Following their recent selection in Sanya, South China's Hainan province, a record number of 48 ambassador crew from Sanya, Zhuhai in Guangdong province and Qingdao in Shandong province will travel to the UK to spend a month training to be ocean racers.
The ambassadors are of all ages and come from all walks of life, including a graphic designer, an engineer and a snowboard instructor.
Clipper Race founder and chairman Sir Robin Knox-Johnston attributes the strong Chinese contingent to sailing's rising profile in China.
"Through the ambassador crew programs for our Chinese partners, hundreds of people have been introduced to sailing and trained as ocean racers," said the 80-year-old Knox-Johnston, who in 1969 became the first man to solo nonstop around the world, piloting a 32-foot Bermudian ketch.
"The first Chinese man and woman to sail around the world, Guo Chuan and Vicky Song, both began their sailing careers as Qingdao ambassadors in the Clipper Race," Knox-Johnson added.
"More than 700 people from 44 countries will be taking part in this year's race, and more than half of them will visit one or more of our Chinese host port cities."
Renowned as one of the toughest endurance challenges on the planet, the Clipper Round the World race is the only event of its kind for nonprofessional sailors. It consists of 11 teams, each comprised of a skipper, a mate and a crew coming from all walks of life to compete in the world's largest matched fleet of 70-foot ocean racing yachts.
Qingdao is the longest serving host port and team partner in the history of the event.
This year's race will be the eighth consecutive one to feature the iconic red and gold hull of China's sailing city, which hosted the Olympic sailing events during the 2008 Summer Games.
It will be the second straight race for the tropical city of Sanya, while Zhuhai will be involved for the first time.