Qingdao takes first victory of Clipper 2023-24 Race

18 February 2024

After a nail-biting end to a race where it really was anyone’s for the taking right up to the Finish Line, it is Qingdao that has taken the top spot on Race 7: Endless Discovery in Ha Long Bay and celebrates its first podium of the edition.

The team, representing the Chinese sailing city of Qingdao, had held on tightly to first place for near on the past week of racing, but in the early hours of the morning local time the wind all but stopped, and the gap between Qingdao and chasing boats Zhuhai and UNICEF closed in.

A narrow Finish Line, and better wind for the boats to the east and west meant that Skipper Philip Quinn and AQP Henry Hallatt had to continue to push the team and boat hard to maintain its lead. However the plan held together and on the debut race for the duo, and Qingdao proudly sailed over the line in first place at 00:58:04 UTC.

Image: Qingdao crew celebrate their first win

With the Chinese boat celebrating the Chinese New Year earlier in this very race, some may say the turn to the Year of the Dragon has brought the fighting spirit out on board.

Reporting from the boat just after the team's win, Skipper Philip Quinn said “Oh, my goodness what a race, and what a finish! We crossed the Finish Line just after midnight UTC, pushed to the very last metres by Zhuhai and UNICEF. It was a very nervous night not knowing where everyone was but knowing that they were coming to get us. As we got nearer to the line out of the mist came Zhuhai and UNICEF, both on a mission. Right down to the very last moments it really could have been anyone's race. We are all ecstatic at being able to pull it off and take the win over some great competition.”

Image: Qingdao Skipper Phil Quinn

There were definitely ecstatic faces on board as Qingdao sailed into the Ha Long International Cruise Port, a first time Host Port on the Clipper Race, earlier this afternoon. Set against the bay’s iconic rock formations and emerald-green seas, the team was greeted by friends, family, and supporters and Mr Hiep, the Managing Director of Ha Long International Cruise Port who stepped on board to gift the team flowers.

On arrival, AQP Henry Hallatt said: “This race was a bit of everything! Our first Le Mans Start, a couple of sprints, boat-on-boat match racing, such varied conditions, and then days and days of racing against UNICEF. There wasn’t a day where we couldn’t or wouldn’t let up – it was just a really fun race.

“And then we got close to the Finish Line, and there it was – wind hole. A really horrible wind hole. I think the last 20 miles or so must have taken us over five hours! And with our competing boats getting ever closer we just spent our time glued to the AIS. It was so close, but we just scraped it in the end!”

Skipper Philip added: “It was such a fight right to the very end. We have been hunted down for days, and we’ve had boats after us for what felt like the whole time. Luckily, we were at the front, but it was so close at the end, there were just minutes separating us. We couldn’t see anyone, and then out of the mist came Zhuhai, we thought they were about 30 miles behind! So, we had to put in a lot of extra work just to hold them off. But well-done Zhuhai, they played a blinder.

“I’m so happy for the Qingdao team, they deserve it, they’ve worked so hard and put in so much effort.”

Qingdao’s round the world Ambassador Ziqi Wang said: “Wow, that was intense. What a race! This morning, we were just 400m away from Zhuhai, but we still managed to make it in first place. I haven’t done dinghy racing in years, but this race felt like it all over again. The whole team was so nervous this morning, keeping an eye on UNICEF and Zhuhai, this is what ocean racing is.

“To arrive in Asia, knowing we are not far away from my home in China, this feels really, really good.”

Team Partner Qingdao Major International Sailing Events(Festivals) Organizing Committee Office congratulated the team saying: “Dear brave crew of Qingdao,

“On the occasion of the Chinese Lunar New Year of the Dragon, we are delighted to learn that the Qingdao yacht has won first place in Race 7 of the Clipper Race under the leadership of Skipper Philip Quinn. Hereby, we would like to extend our warmest congratulations and best wishes for the new spring to all crew of Qingdao.

"In this edition, the Qingdao yacht has showcased remarkable sailing strategies, excellent teamwork, and strong perseverance in the face of numerous challenges. You have demonstrated the charm and image of Qingdao as a Sailing City with your courage and persistence in fighting against the adverse weather conditions and fierce competition in the ocean sailing.

Image: Qingdao sails into Ha Long Bay, Viet Nam

“We are very proud of your outstanding performance. Congratulations again on your great achievements! We wish you safe sailing and greater results in the coming races. And we are looking forward to your triumphant return to Qingdao stopover!”

It was an obligatory Champagne spray for the team, before enjoying a cold drink and heading off to enjoy some well-deserved downtime in the beautiful Vietnam.

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