Heroes’ Welcome for Home Team Qingdao

12 March 2016

Though every Clipper Race team receives a big welcome into China, the crowds are inevitably always largest for the arrival of the hometown team, with this year in Qingdao being no different.

In seventh place, the Qingdao team arrived today to an almighty fanfare, with crowds of press and locals all ready to greet their team, including two Qingdao residents on board, to its home port.

Madam Zang Aimin, Vice President of Qingdao Major International Sailing Events Organizing Committee, announced to the team and the waiting throng of people: “Today is Chinese Arbor Day, a day on which seeds of hope will be planted. On this special day we are re gathering in the ‘Sailing City’ Qingdao to welcome our Qingdao team to its home port.

“On behalf of the Organising Committee and hospitable Qingdao citizens, I would also like to extend my sincere welcome to all the brave Clipper Race sailors coming here from afar and my warm congratulations to you all on your excellent performance in the ‘Sailing City’ Qingdao Cup Race from Da Nang, Vietnam to Qingdao, China.”

“This race has tested sailor’s limits and enabled them to realise dreams but also carried forward culture and enhanced the friendship between our nations. Qingdao has arranged a series of cultural activities to allow you all to get to know our city and our people better, which I hope you all enjoy.”

On his team’s race home and arrival experience, first-time visitor to China, Skipper Bob Beggs, adorned in the traditional warrior cloak, says: “Ni Hao (hello) Qingdao! Thank you for the extraordinary welcome, it is just fantastic to finally be here. Our entire team has been preparing and waiting for this moment since before we left London, and it has not disappointed us.

“If the welcome is an indication of how the city receives us that will be fantastic. It’s lovely to see so many people enthusiastic about sailing and their city. Having hosted the Olympics in the past it is clear the city is doing a good job at keeping the sport alive here.”

Qingdao resident Mingyue (Melody) Liu, 21, who is the youngest member the Qingdao ambassador crew for the 2015-16 race, was greeted with flowers by her parents, as she said: “There is a huge sense of achievement at completing this whole leg. It really was very tough and a massive e experience for everyone. The first few days included very strong winds and it was very bumpy and everything was wet. About three days ago we also suffered from the storm, about 70mph hour wind. I felt a little scared at the start but after we felt wow, we are strong like heroes.”

Explaining how the Clipper Race differs from her previous sailing experience, Melody says: “This experience has been much more challenging than my previous experiences which was inshore racing where you go out in the morning and come back to land in the afternoon. On this boat you are out in much harsher conditions, for more than two weeks at a time, where your entire world exists within 70 foot and 20 other people. It is very different!

“Arriving home to Qingdao today was so exciting! I have been sailing around here for about ten years but this was the first time feeling this excited and having so much support here. I will never forget this experience, and I will never forget my team mates who I did this with.”

As he walked off the stage through the crowds who all wanted autographs, photos and interviews, round the world Qingdao crew member Jimmy Gannon told us: “That welcome was absolutely incredible! I had always been told that the Qingdao welcome was going to be very elaborate but it was even more than I expected. There were fireworks and drummers and the amount of cameras and people, it was absolutely amazing. The numbers were so intense that I actually couldn’t even walk through the crowd for all the cameras that were in my face.

On the race, Jimmy adds: “Even though this race was really rough and really cold, as far as the sailing goes it was one of our best races. We didn’t get the result we wanted, however we felt that our coming together as a team was really good, the sailing we did was really good and we’re actually very happy with the way we sailed.

“I don’t mean this in a bad way but it is good to hear that some of the other teams encountered the same problems we had. We were doing a bit of boat dodging, a good look out for fishing nets, we also noticed there was a fair bit of debris in the water so had to keep a sharp eye out and make sure we didn’t hit anything. Luckily enough we escaped unscathed and didn’t do too much damage to the boat so hopefully there won’t be too much maintenance to do while we’re here.

“The Pacific is next, I don’t think there is ever the perfect time to do it ever, but this is the best time for us because we are as ready as we’ll ever be. We know what we are in for now that we’ve come into Qingdao, we’ve felt the cold, we’ve felt the rough and we’re expecting more of the same, if not worse so we are going to give it our best shot and hopefully get a better result next time.”

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