Qingdao sails into London in a blaze of glory

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The Chinese entry competing in the Clipper 2013-14 Round the World Yacht Race arrived back in London yesterday as thousands of spectators lined the Thames eager to get a glimpse of the 12-strong international fleet after it conquered Mother Nature’s toughest conditions. 

Qingdao took part in an impressive Parade of Sail in front of Tower Bridge as tens of thousands of spectators, friends and family cheered on the team as they arrived safely back to St Katharine Docks where it all began 11 months earlier. The Chinese entry also made history when round the world crew member Vicky Song became the first Chinese woman to complete a circumnavigation. 

Skipper of Qingdao, Gareth Glover, reflected on the past 11 months after finishing the 250 mile Race 16 from Den Helder, the Netherlands to London. The team was handed a special prize when they took to the stage as winners of the Henri Lloyd Clipper Race Seamanship Award – voted for by the public after the team went to the rescue of Mission Performance when two crew members were injured and had to be medevaced off the boat during Race 7 from Hobart, Tasmania to Brisbane, Australia. 

A fire then broke out in the engine room of Mission Performance and Qingdao ceased racing to assist them, towing the yacht back into Hobart. Two Qingdao crew members then joined the Mission Performance team so it had enough crew members to be able to restart the race.

“Winning the Henri Lloyd Clipper Race Seamanship Award is a huge honour and I’m extremely proud of our team. I didn’t think anything could top how we feel after completing this incredible global challenge, but this award really does mean so much to us,” said Gareth.

“I think I speak for the whole team when I say what an unbelievable experience this last year has been for all of us. You step on board with a group of people who have never met before and within days you start to build your team and see these amateur sailors become and behave like professional seasoned sailors. I’m proud of each and every one of them.”

Meanwhile, crowds gathered to see Vicky Song take to the stage as the first Chinese female to sail around the world. The Qingdao official delegation, led by Mr. Ji Gaoshang, Director General of Qingdao Municipal Bureau of Sports, attended the whole Race Finish to celebrate the victory of the teams and expressed a warm welcome and congratulations. He also presented the crew with a special decorative scroll to commemorate their achievement. 

In addition, Guo Chan, the first Chinese man to sail solo around the world, and Lijia Xu, the Chinese Gold Olympic Medalist in sailing in the 2012 London Olympics. Friends and families of Qingdao girls Song Kun and Li Jun were on hand to welcome them home. Overwhelmed by the reception, Vicky fought back tears as she tried to comprehend her huge achievement. 

“This is an incredible moment for me and my family. There were times when I thought I wouldn’t be able to complete this incredible challenge - it’s not just about the sailing but also the psychological side of it too. When you live and breathe in a space that is 70 foot in length for so long sharing it with so many people, it really tests you as a person.”

After 40,000 miles Vicky couldn’t wait to speak to the one person who has been her inspiration to never give up during her epic global challenge. Vicky’s mum - who is battling terminal liver cancer back in Qingdao, China - remains her biggest supporter.

Vicky added: “To be stood here now, I can say for certain it was all worth it. It’s been so difficult being so far away from my mum, but she’s also the reason why I am here now – we always say to each other, never give up. I can’t wait to call my mum now and tell her officially - I’ve done it!”

Qingdao finished in seventh place overall, just eight points behind its closest rival Old Pulteney. 

The city of Qingdao and the Clipper Race have been in cooperation for 10 years, the longest partnership in the race history. Both parties enjoy great benefits from the cooperation. Mr. Ji Said, “With the continuous hosting of the Clipper Round the World Race, QINGDAO, the brand of Sailing City of China,  has been greatly improved in China and around the world. We look forward to welcome the Clipper Race fleet to Qingdao again in the 2015-16 edition.”