Zhuhai Ambassador Crew reflections one year on from completing training

20 July 2020

A year on from completing their Clipper Race training programme, the Zhuhai Ambassador Crew members share their memories, photos and videos. They reflect on what they have already achieved and look forward to what is still to come on their Clipper Race journey.

Pan Yue, one of the two Zhuhai Ambassador Crew members on board for Leg 1, raced from London to Punta del Este, via Portimao, she said: It's been a year since we first arrived in the UK for our training with the Clipper Race. Not only did we gain the precious memories with teammates and training staff there, but also the practical knowledge and skills needed to become a qualified and responsible seafarer.

Pan Yue grinding the backstay during Race 1 from London to Portimao

“For a rookie like me, it was not easy to apply the sailing theory illustrated in the training manual into the real world. During level 1 and 2, the Skippers and First Mates were super helpful and patient when teaching us the sailing techniques, in different wind conditions. We drilled the Man Overboard (MOB) scenarios and other safety manoeuvres many times to make sure everyone knew the procedures of dealing with any potential emergencies. Level 3 and 4 perfectly demonstrated living life at 45 degrees and certainly helped us to adapt to the watch systems on board. The crossing of the English Channel became the first offshore sailing record in my logbook. How special!”

All Clipper Race crew, including Ambassador Crew Members must undergo and pass four levels of intense and comprehensive training. This includes both on the water and shore based learning from basic sailing skills and evolutions, to safety at sea and racing tactics. No matter what previous sailing experience Race Crew have, all must complete the training programme. The goal is to provide them with the skills and tools that are needed in order to become a safe and efficient ocean racing crew member, preparing them for one of the toughest endurance challenges on the planet.

A snippet from Level 1 training courtesy of Wu Hongfa

Pan Yue added: “After practicing over and over again, our team work got more and more efficient throughout the four levels of training. All the things I had learned came in very handy in the following Leg 1 races. Thanks to the thorough training, we were well-prepared to embark on a journey for our race of life.”

Qu Jiamin, nicknamed Jessica, has been maximising her Clipper Race experience. Despite currently having an extended wait to join her Zhuhai team for Leg 7 when the Clipper 2019-20 Race resumes in 2021, she previously flew to Cape Town to experience the stopover, meet up with her teammates and help with maintenance on board.

As a Sailing Instructor in China she is an experienced sailor in her own right yet Jessica still found the Clipper Race training tough. She reports: “I can’t believe it’s been a year since the race training, parts of experience already fade from my memory, only the most bitter and most happy are kept in my mind. The four weeks of training were hard, but I benefited from all the experienced Clipper Race instructors, the organised training system, and my teammates.

Life on board: Cooking in the galley, whilst the yacht is heeling

“I suppose I knew most of the sailing skills before I joined the Clipper Race, however even the most familiar ability such as cooking on board became difficult when the boat angle of inclination was over 15 degree, and rolling!”

Alongside the sailing skills the Clipper Race training is also there to provide insight into what it’s like to live on board; the experience is a true challenge and so is not for everyone. Jessica reflects on some of the difficulties she and her fellow ambassadors faced: “Communication is very important on the 70ft yacht, especially when on the extreme water crossing oceans. One of the ambassadors struggled with the language and so did not pass Level 1. Another member had to leave due to terrible seasickness, not only him, the feeling of seasickness was also a worry for me. A lady finally retired from Level 3, with the physicality of sailing becoming too much.

“But the love of sailing and the yearning for the sea encouraged most of us to stay and to face the hard work every day, and enjoy our transformation from a bluebird to a true sailor. This was just the beginning of our dream, we still have a long way to go, but we appreciate that the Clipper Race opens this window!”

A video shared by Lin Tang, otherwise known as Michael, from his Level 4 training. Here you can see the fleet line up for a practice Le Mans start from the perspective of being on board Zhuhai.

On his involvement in the race and looking forward to the North Pacific crossing Michael said:“Time flies, the first half of pandemic-haunted 2020 is over. This has also affected my participation of Leg 6 in Clipper Round the World Yacht Race.

“I was in the US early this year, my original plan was to return to China in February to join the race, although just around Chinese New Year, Covid-19 started to break out. Options of joining the race through other countries was challenging, so I applied for changing to Leg 7, and the team agreed. With both anticipation and disappointment, I watched the fleet arrive into Subic Bay, Philippines, as there would be another two months to go before I was able to get on board.

“However, on March 16 2020, the professional staff of Clipper Race organising committee, as per the situation back then, with careful thinking and consideration, made the hard decision of postponing the race!”

Zhuhai Ambassadors after they were selected

Whilst a disappointment Micheal is looking forward to continuing his Clipper Race journey. Philosophically he said: “Why do we attend this event? Because we’re all in love of sailing! What’s maritime spirit? Be prepared and united, be aware of dangers although not taking risks, be cautious and brave!”

The Clipper 2019-20 Race is set to resume in February 2021 and the route will see the fleet visit the sailing and island city of Zhuhai as well as the other two Chinese destinations of Sanya and Qingdao as previously scheduled. When Jessica, Michael and the remaining Zhuhai Ambassadors will be able to put their training to the test and complete the journey they started over a year ago.

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