Following a memorable arrival ceremony to welcome each of the eleven Clipper Race teams to Qingdao, the prestigious celebrations continued with the Race 9: Sailing City – Qingdao Cup Prizegiving Ceremony.

After opening with a traditional dance ceremony, Dr Wang Dongxiang, Deputy Secretary General of Qingdao Municipal People’s Government, officially opened the event with a welcome speech.

Laura Ayres, Managing Director of Clipper Ventures then followed with a speech reflecting on the historic partnership, and extending thanks to the Qingdao Organising Committee (QOC). Laura said: “One of the most significant relationships of the Clipper Race is the one between us and the Qingdao Organising Committee.

“The Clipper Race coming to Qingdao was a test event for the hosting capabilities of QOC ahead of the Olympic Games, and the first-ever major sailing event to come to China. The ambitious vision of Mr Xia, Madam Zang, and the QOC saw the potential of what could become.

“The Clipper Race partnership has enabled nearly one hundred local ambassadors to become ocean racers and many of these have gone on to have successful careers in the sailing industry, some of which have closed the loop and come back to work for the QOC. The marine industry in the region is thriving, and it is fantastic to see the Clipper 70s back in the city where they were built.

“The welcome we have all received over these two days has been truly spectacular and it has been refined to perfection over the past nine race editions. I hope it will live on in the memories of our adventurous race crew for a long time to come.”

Image: Clipper Race Managing Director, Laura Ayres opening Prizegiving

Following an exchange of gifts between Sir Robin Knox-Johnston and the leader of the QOC, the focus turned to the main Prizegiving celebrations.

Clipper Race Director, Mark Light opened the proceedings by giving an overview of the conditions that the crew faced, saying: “Race 9:Sailing City -Qingdao Cup was a 1,300nm race from Zhuhai to Qingdao which proved to be very tough racing for all teams. The first major challenge facing the fleet was the upwind race towards the bottom of Taiwan and this meant that there were lots of changes of positions as teams battled a strong easterly wind. After clearing the first 400nm, the fleet turned north and had to negotiate the first light wind patch of the race, before the upwind conditions returned to create more challenges and life on board returning to an angle. Further north the fleet encountered the huge fishing fleets which are notorious in this area and have to be seen to be believed.

“The twists and turns didn’t stop as light wind areas slowed the fleet before yet more upwind conditions put the crews to the test once again. Thankfully, the final 24 hours of racing were stunning with fast downwind conditions, spinnakers flying, and the Clipper 70s in their element. Close racing across the whole fleet kept the motivation levels high throughout and created exciting finishes all around.”

It was then time to announce the UNICEF fundraising total so far, which has reached a staggering £366,749.99 to date, with the top three teams being recognised for their fundraising efforts:

3rd – Yacht Club Punta del Este, £42, 731.57

2nd – UNICEF, £47, 868.74

1st – Bekezela, £55,738.39

Next up were the winners of the Scoring Gate. For this Race, the Scoring Gate was positioned to the east of Taiwan approx. 25nm due east of the Rhumb Line track and situated at 23° north. The Scoring Gate was approx. 28nm wide from west to east and as usual gave the opportunity for teams to gain extra bonus points. Congratulations to the following teams on securing the bonus points:

3rd – Zhuhai (10:48:43 UTC)

2nd – Our Isles and Oceans (08:47:50 UTC)

1st – UNICEF (07:36:09 UTC)

Then it was on to the Ocean Sprint. The Ocean Sprint was between longitude 118°E and 121°E and the distance on the Rhumb Line across was approximately 310nm. It was also unusual in that it was a solid upwind sprint section which means that it is very difficult to predict who would be fastest and get the bonus points.

Congratulations to the following teams who managed to swoop in and take home the bonus points:

3rd – Dare To Lead (28:30:57)

2nd – Perseverance (28:03:54)

1st – Yacht Club Punta del Este (27:55:26)

Image: Yacht Club Punta del Este Skipper Nano and AQP Angus celebrate their Ocean Sprint victory

Next up were the eagerly awaited podium winners of Race 9: Sailing City – Qingdao Cup.

Securing third place with nine points was the hometown heroes, Qingdao. The teams journey was a rollercoaster of triumphs and setbacks, with Qingdao clawing their way up from the bottom to clinch third. Stepping onto the stage to claim their pennant, it was evident that this victory meant the world to the entire team.

Image: Home team Qingdao receiving their third-place pennant

Next, it was the awarding of the second-place pennant, with UNICEF taking the spotlight and securing ten points. This marks the team's highest podium finish yet, surpassing their third-place achievements in both Race 1 and Race 7.

Image: Second place winners, UNICEF on stage to receive their pennant

Then it was on to the champions of Race 9: Sailing City – Qingdao Cup, with Our Isles and Oceans securing the top eleven points. This marks the team's second podium finish, previously taking third place in Race 6 from Newcastle to Airlie Beach. A truly well-deserved victory for the team who fought tirelessly to take the top spot.

Image: Race 9 Sailing City – Qingdao Cup winners, Our Isles and Oceans

Race Director, Mark Light finished the Prizegiving proceeding by once again thanking all in attendance by saying: “Thank you once again to the Qingdao Organising Committee, ladies, gentlemen, Race Crew, and all your friends and family.”

The evening came to a close with a showcase of cultural dance performances and a banquet of traditional local cuisine.

Image: Cultural dancing during the Prizegiving ceremony