The Clipper 2011-12 Round the World Yacht Race fleet have completed race 8 from Singapore to Qingdao. After 22 gruelling days at sea Qingdao has made it to its home port - crossing the finishing line in Fushan Bay at 1828 UTC. It’s been a rough journey for the Qingdao crew, being hit by the 'home port curse' and arriving in last place, but spirits were soon lit up, as a spectacular welcome in China’s ‘Capital of Sailing’ awaited them.
Hundreds of Qingdao people waited on the shore, ready with flags, flowers and an array of gifts treating their home team as real superstars.
'The first clue we got that something was happening was when we could hear the drumming from all the way outside the harbour wall. Once we came in, we started to get a flavour of just how big it was. We couldn’t even see the pontoon that we had to moor on, because there were so many people on it, it was almost under water. The reception was just amazing,' says skipper Ian Conchie.
Fighting his way through photographers and fans, Ian and his crew made it onto the stage, where they were given hats and scarves and the Qingdao skipper was draped in a yellow cape, which symbolises nobility; in ancient China it was only worn when emperors and generals returned victorious from battle fields.
They were welcomed to the city by Madam Zang Aimin, Vice President of Qingdao Olympic Sailing City Development Association and Vice President of Qingdao Major International Sailing Events Organising Committee. Then – and to the crowds’ amazement – the Qingdao skipper managed to deliver his speech in Mandarin. 'My Chinese crew member Brett has kindly been teaching me that all the way here. I haven’t heard whether it was good or bad yet, but they seemed to understand,' laughs Ian.
Departing from Singapore at the beginning of Race 8, Qingdao opted for a more westerly route than the rest of the fleet, along with Welcome to Yorkshire, who managed to overtake the Chinese entry at the last hurdle.
'Whatever we did on this race – nothing seemed to work for us. Looking at the weather files that came through, we were making good decisions, but then the weather just didn’t appear.
'It’s a real shame we couldn’t keep fighting Welcome to Yorkshire all the way to the end, but after the damage we inflicted to the boat coming up through the Luzon Straits, I had a few concerns about the rigging, so I had to back of the speed quite a severe amount, just to make sure we got the boat and crew here safely, undamaged and ready for the next leg crossing the mighty Pacific.'
Complementing his crew, Ian continues, 'This race has really shown how far the crew has come. We had huge waves of up to eight metres and had to slow right down because we were just crashing over them. It was such a horrible experience, but the crew really looked after each other, and we have finally made it here without injuries or major damage to the boat. And with this welcome everyone is in good spirits.'
Especially pleased to arrive in China was Qingdaonese crew member, Zhiguo Qu, known to his team mates as Brett. He joined the Qingdao boat in Gold Coast Australia on Christmas day and was reunited with his family on the red carpet upon arrival.
The 37-year-old proof reader says, 'It feels so good to be here. For more than two months I haven’t seen my family members, so it’s great to meet them back in my hometown.But I do feel a little nervous with all these cameras coming after me asking me about my exciting Clipper Race journey.'
Reflecting on his experience Brett continues, 'The Clipper Race has taught me a lot the most important one being courage. You can always solve any problem and after the race, I’ll have more courage to face anything in life that happens to me. That will always be in my heart.'
Today’s final arrival ceremony, hosted by Qingdao’s Team Partner, Doublestar Mingren Sporting Goods, marks the end of a spectacular week in the Olympic Sailing Centre.
Race 8 has been a challenge for all Clipper 11-12 Round the World Yacht Race entries.
De Lage Landen who won for the first time, despite crossing the finish line 23 minutes after Geraldton Western Australia. They clinched victory because the Race Committee granted a request for seven hours redress after the yacht left the race to support Gold Coast Australia during a medical emergency. Despite the emergency the Queensland entry secured third place.
The overall leader board now sees Singapore moving up one place to fourth position and Geraldton Western Australia an astonishingly two places, now being in sixth place.
During the stopover in Qingdao a diverse programme of cultural activities awaits the crew and skippers of the ten-strong fleet, with more than 50 crew members meeting local families tomorrow to experience Chinese culture.
Sponsors are also starting to arrive in Qingdao, using the Clipper Race as a platform to do business and build relationships with Chinese organisations.
This is the fourth time the city has sponsored an entry and hosted the Clipper Race fleet. Qingdao recently signed a contract to sponsor two more races until 2016 to build on its legacy as the sailing venue of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games and to continue to strengthen its brand as China’s sailing city.
The Clipper 11-12 fleet will be hosted by Qingdao until 4 March, when they will set off from China on the longest stage of the 40,000-mile race, across the Pacific Ocean to California, USA. Overall standings after Race 8
1 Gold Coast Australia 83 points
2 Visit Finland 59 points
3 De Lage Landen 57 points
4 Singapore 46 points
5 New York 44 points
6 Geraldton Western Australia 43 points
7 Derry-Londonderry 40 points
8 Welcome to Yorkshire 39 points
9 Qingdao 35 points
10 Edinburgh Inspiring Capital 17 points
*DTF = Distance to Finish, **DTL = Distance to Leader. Full positions are updated every three hours and can be found at online
. Clipper Round the World Yacht Race website