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A return to sailing: China gets back on the water

by Clipper Round the World Race 7 Aug 2020 21:16 PDT
China gets back on the water © Clipper Race

Sporting events around the world have been affected by the global outbreak of Covid-19. Sailing has not been immune to the impact from the pandemic with both major international events and local sailing postponed, including the Clipper 2019-20 Race which is set to resume in February 2021.

However, governments around the world have started to relax lockdown measures and move forward in their phases of recovery; including the return of sporting events such as sailing. With strict guidelines, limitations and health and safety procedures to adhere to, sport is not completely back to full strength. But the watersports industry has been getting used to the 'new normal' with some sailing events and regattas recommencing and importantly has got people back out on the water and enjoying the sport.

The world has seen the return of single handed regattas and looking to China, sailing events have slowly started to be hosted as its investment in the growth of the sailing industry continues.

Yan Hu, General Manager of Clipper China, the Chinese division of Clipper Ventures, provides insight into the status of the sailing industry there: "Because of its nature, it is one of the first few sports to recommence as the stringent pandemic measures are relaxed. Sailing clubs across the country are getting lots of visitors, many youth sailing summer camps are fully booked, small scale regattas are taking place more and more on the weekends, and the CYA (China Yachting Association) is preparing to roll out its own youth dinghy sailing training system this month as well."

Clipper China launched in November 2018 to meet the country's growing participation in sailing. Earlier this summer, the second round of trials for the new Clipper 7 yacht took place. This is a new design of racing yacht which will be launched to meet the needs for domestic leisure sailing and racing. The design is by Tony Castro, renowned naval architect, who also designed the Clipper 70. These recent successful sea trials have forged the foundation for the future Clipper China Sailing Academy project. This newly-born racing yacht, along with the upcoming Clipper 12 will become the new options for the domestic racing yacht market in China.

Zhuhai, the city of Islands in the Greater Bay Area, a debut Host Port and Team Partner in the Clipper 2019-20 Race, has successfully held its first sailing event since lockdown. Marking the Chinese Dragon Boat Festival, the Enjoy Sailing event brought families together to learn more about the benefits of sailing and gave 200 people the opportunity to experience it for the first time. Plans are in place for a Hobie sailing event in October, aimed at raising public interest locally amongst families and the city will also welcome the 2020 KiteFoil Series Final in November, which will attract professionals from all over the world. All of these events are great preparations for hosting the Clipper Race next year.

As with all public events precautions have been put in place and all events have complied with the government requirements. Measures include wearing face masks, temperature checks, and monitoring travel paths of non-local guests.

The Zhuhai Organising Committee said: "We restarted our sailing programme in February, with clean air as one of the benefits. It's worked and we have been able to safely introduce a new audience to come and experience sailing in Zhuhai. Compared with other tourism areas, the sport of sailing is relatively safer in this specific situation. We are pleased to see that more and more people are choosing to take part in sailing in their spare time."

Through a sailing workshop and on board experience, the sailing city of Qingdao utilised sailing to say thank you to over 50 medical personnel from five hospitals in the area. The group has been delivering crucial care to Covid-19 patients, and the workshop offered them an enjoyable and relaxing day away from their life saving work.

With strictly implemented Covid-19 prevention and control measures, Qingdao has also managed to resume running its 'Welcome on Board Weekend Regatta' series. Up to 14 teams participated in each race and the total number of participants has reached nearly 400, including sailing athletes and sailing amateurs.

The Qingdao Organising Committee said: "The Welcome on Board (WOB) Weekend Regatta is the first sailing event we've held since the coronavirus containment. It plays a positive role in accelerating the integration of the sport into the mainstream of city life, further promoting the resumption of work and the production of the sailing industry, and boosting consumers' confidence in recreational sports.

"On July 11 2020, which was China National Maritime Day, the WOB Weekend Regatta held its fifth race. According to the tradition, all participating teams whistled for one minute to commemorate the anniversary. Frankie Zheng, Clipper Race Qingdao team Ambassador Crew member, Xu Jingkun, the first Chinese round-the-world sailor on a catamaran, and Song Kun, the first Chinese woman to sail around the world after competing in the Clipper Race, jointly participated in the Maritime Day of China Sailing City promotion activity."

Even before sailing could recommence, Qingdao developed online sailing classes to help young sailors stay connected to the sport and aid the continuation of learning outside of school. Cooperating with three major streaming platforms, PPTV July TV, Youku Children and Penguin Sports, the animation Happy Sailing Optimist Super Kids was launched. This is a series of three interactive online sailing courses which use sailing to help give children tools to cope with the impact of a global pandemic. The first online lessons on Penguin Sports reached more than 100,000 children.

The 12th Qingdao International Sailing Week - Qingdao International Marine Festival 2020 which will be held from this weekend (8-16 August) at the Qingdao Olympic Sailing Center. This major event in the Qingdao international season focuses on international sailing events to promote culture, trade and commerce and includes seven regattas, a sailing camp, and more than 30 events.

With the sailing industry making great strides to get people back on the water and benefiting from the sport, the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race is set to resume in February 2021. Whilst the race is on pause, find out more about Clipper Race participants, like Zhang Shan, a teacher, who is an Ambassador Crew member on the Qingdao team and the Zhuhai Ambassador Crew who have been reflecting on their Clipper Race training.

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