It was a spectacular welcome normally only reserved for the famous as hundreds of traditional Chinese drummers lined the pontoon eager to welcome the Clipper 2013-14 Race fleet to China’s ‘Sailing Capital’ of Qingdao.
However, after the music faded, the final interviews were given and autographs signed by the skippers and crew, it wasn’t long before the ‘local celebrities’ were invited to a series of special events to celebrate 10 years of partnership as Qingdao hosted its fifth edition of the Clipper Race.
“This is the fifth time Qingdao has had a yacht entry in the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race. It is a relationship that has continued to grow over the last ten years, moving from strength to strength,” said Sir Robin speaking at an elaborate donation ceremony held at the Dun Hua Lu Primary School in Qingdao.
“And you have become our longest race partner, participating in six consecutive races, having already committed to the 2015-16 edition of the Clipper Race. It is lovely to come to your school exchange our gifts and to bring some of our skippers, crew and friends and family to share their experiences with you,”added Sir Robin.
Before the skippers took to stage to present the school children with signed photographs of each of the teams competing on the Clipper 2013-14 Race, all of the skippers lined up to have an imprint of their hand added to the wall of fame. After the official ceremony pupils took to the stage to perform traditional martial arts, ballet and modern dance.
However, during the Qingdao stopover there is always one special event that all the crew are keen to take part in - the homestay visit.
Crew were offered the chance to take part in an authentic Chinese experience and spend a day with a Chinese family as they took them in as their own.
After being presented to their host families on stage at the Qingdao International Yacht Club and showered with gifts, each crew member was taken away by their “new family” for a carefully planned day of Chinese culture.
Round the world crew member on board GREAT Britain, Ionie Robinson, said: “It was nice to spend some time with a local Chinese family, to share a day in their life and get to understand their culture.
“They took me to a local market where I saw all the local delicacies including a lot of things that were still moving. I even tried a silk worm which had a distinctive and unusual taste.”
Visits were made to Qingdao temples with special ceremonies held for good luck on the race ahead. Other activities included visiting tea plantations, local markets for authentic delicacies such as scorpions, squid and snake, making dumplings and finishing the day in their family homes for a traditional lunch– much of which was captured by Chinese film crews, eager to get a glimpse of the Clipper Race crew.