Kung Fu fighting, Chinese calligraphy and origami messages in a bottle were order of the day for the Clipper Race crew and Skippers who were invited to a local primary school as part of Qingdao’s cultural exchange programme.

400 children from the Zhu Jiang Road Primary School, which specialises in sailing, hosted a mini-festival and variety performance which began with the crew being greeted by the sound of the orchestra and adorned in red scarves by the young pupils.

Derry~Londonderry~Doire crew member Rebecca Ormisher, who sailed Legs 1 & 5, said: “The children are all so cute, really well-mannered and keen to practice their English with us. As soon as we arrived they were running over, putting scarves on everyone, telling us their names, ages and they’ve all given us a lesson in Chinese calligraphy.

“As a tourist, often it is difficult to meet local people and get out and interact with them, especially children. So this was great to come and see some of the performances and things they must learn in school, which is so different from what we learn in the UK.”

Her team mate Ellie Fearon, who is over halfway through her circumnavigation added: “I’ve never been to China before now and this is not something I’d ever get to experience otherwise, so it’s really good to be part of it. The students are all so talented and their robots were very impressive!”

As is tradition in China, the hosts and visitors exchanged gifts. After Sir Robin's welcome speech, Clipper Race CEO William Ward presented the school with an image of the Qingdao yacht that is representing China's Sailing City on its round the world adventure, receiving art work in return. After that, each of the teams was represented by their Skipper or a crew member on stage and they handed over a large printed image of their yacht, in return receiving a large scroll of Chinese calligraphy.

With Garmin Skipper Ash Skett on a sail day, Muchi Lukhezo, (Leg 5) represented his team on stage. Afterwards, he said: “It was great fun. The energy of the children is really something special and they had obviously spent a lot of time preparing for today, it was just delightful. The music was brilliant, and the toys - I loved the gadgets and things. They were all just very keen to get to know us. This is my first time in China and I love that we are getting a taste of the culture.”

After each performance on stage, whether it was by the musicians, dancers or Kung Fu fighters, once they had finished, the crew were invited to get involved and try everything out for themselves. As some tried to mimic the children’s impressive gymnastics, others were talked through the latest robots and gadgets they had built in their technology lessons.

The stopover is the first time Qingdao Skipper Bob Beggs has ever been to China and he is impressed with legacy the Clipper Race has here.

“It was great to visit the school and see how Qingdao is embracing modern technology with all the gadgets on display and mixing that with traditional music and Kung Fu fighting skills. I think they are investing in their future by making sure their children are educated for the world at large. I think the Clipper Race being here, liaising with Qingdao, is a great opportunity.”

Bob’s wife Carol, who is visiting stopover for the first time in either of Bob’s races as a Clipper Race Skipper, added: “It’s really important to come out and support the Clipper Race and the teams. This morning’s event was just amazing, they all made us feel so welcome. All the children were running around trying to give us all gifts and just trying to please us really. They were just so excited to see some of the crew and their faces lit up. It was nice to see them so happy.

“I have even got a gift for our daughter, Rachel. It’s a little jar with handwritten messages in it, they are all colourful origami boats, flowers, birds. It was beautifully wrapped and lovely gift to bring back home.”

The Qingdao Organising Committee is putting on a series of cultural exchange days during the stopover, including a visit to a local community in the Shi Nan district where the fleet is berthed, and another to the farmlands outside the city.

To find out more about Qingdao and see the full programme of events in the stopover, click here.

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