​Sailing Together: A long-standing alliance with Qingdao


China’s Sailing City of Qingdao has maintained a longstanding legacy with the Clipper Race since its debut year of working together in 2005. Now on the ninth edition and 18th year of partnership as a team entry and Host Port, Clipper Ventures is reflecting on some of the key pillars of the relationship and the Clipper 2023-24 Race so far.

The Clipper Race was the first international sailing event to take place in China, making Qingdao the first Chinese city to host an event of such a scale. Building on the success of this inaugural year, Qingdao went on to host the sailing events in the Beijing Olympics and continued to grow its name as China’s Sailing City on a global stage. The relationship between the Clipper Race and Qingdao runs deep. Qingdao is the hub of sailing, and thanks to the Clipper Race, many people have been introduced to the sport, notably offshore racing. The fleet of Clipper 70s was also built in Qingdao ahead of the 2013-14 race, and the city is now famed around the world for hosting large-scale sailing events and developing its talent to sail on the global stage.

Image: The Qingdao yacht departing Cape Town. Image by Warren Kirkland

Growing the sport of sailing in China

A key pillar of the partnership between the Clipper Race and Qingdao is the growth of the sport of sailing in China. Ahead of the official start of the Clipper 2023-24 Race, Chris Rushton, Clipper Ventures Managing Director, attended the 15th Qingdao International Sailing Week and Qingdao International Marine Festival in August 2023. The prestigious festival was a true celebration of the sailing heritage of the city, and presented opportunities for trade, business and networking, among a busy schedule of events.

During the festival, Chris was invited to speak on a panel discussing the success of sailing events in promoting cities, highlighting the benefits to local communities, and the future of sailing in China.

Chris said: “The Qingdao International Marine Festival provided a great platform to showcase the success of the partnership, and the future development of sailing in Qingdao, in which the Clipper Race has played a key role for many years. We all look forward to visiting the Sailing City on the Clipper 2023-24 Race- Qingdao is always a highlight of the circumnavigation, where a warm welcome awaits the intrepid Race Crew and dedicated supporters.”

Image: Chris Rushton at the 5th Qingdao International Sailing Week and Qingdao International Marine Festival in August 2023.

Clipper Ventures created another segment of the business- Clipper China- which enables Clipper Ventures to deliver structured sail training in China, and the organisation is working toward creating sailing academies. Clipper China was created in 2018 with the aim and ethos of becoming the industry leader in the development of offshore sail training and sailing events in China. This is designed to build on the success of the fact that the Clipper Race has trained more Chinese sailors than any other organisation through its Ambassador Programme.

Supporting the development of Chinese sailors

Cultivating talent and enhancing the development of sailing in Qingdao is a core priority for the partnership. The Clipper Race has supported delivering this through its Ambassador Programme, which has successfully trained more than 70 Chinese sailors, many of whom have become professional sailors or work in related professions in the sailing industry.

The first Chinese sailor to join the Clipper Race, was Guo Chan, who sailed on board Qingdao in the 2005-06 edition and became the first Chinese person to sail solo, non-stop around the world in 2013.

In the Clipper 2013-14 Race, Qingdao Ambassador Vicky Song became the first Chinese woman to sail around the world, when she represented Qingdao as an Ambassador on board the Sailing City’s team yacht. Vicky Song has recently returned to Clipper Ventures, this time extending her training with the intensive 17-week Yachtmaster fast-track course at Hamble School of Yachting. Vicky now has her sights set on sailing around the world again and when the time is right, setting up her own sailing school in Qingdao.

Clipper Ventures recently caught up with Vicky during her Yachtmaster training, as she reflected on the experience: “I was born in Qingdao and grew up there -it's a city I love. To become an Ambassador made me feel so proud of it, and it was my obligation to promote my city to the world. It was an unforgettable memory for me. I felt really lucky to be selected, as it gave me the chance to gain so much sailing experience and so many friends in my life.”

Wishing the current 2023-24 edition Ambassadors, well, Vicky concludes: “I know exactly what you are going to face together- you are going to have challenges, some frustration, but friendships around the world, and in the end, you will be so proud of yourselves!”

Image: The Clipper 2023-24 Race Qingdao Ambassadors

Among the Ambassadors sailing on board Qingdao in this current race edition is Donging (Will) Zhou, who has just embarked on Leg 3 from South Africa to Australia, crossing the challenging Roaring Forties. Will currently works in Qingdao as a sailing instructor, and ahead of the race said: “It’s going to be a very intense leg, but I’m sure in those intense times we will find some time to chill and teach people Mandarin! I’m excited for the leg. In the past few days, we have been getting the boat ready, getting all the sails ready. We are as ready as can be for the coming leg, and hopefully we will have a repeat of Qingdao’s glory in the last edition!”

Qingdao Ambassador Ziqi (Zack) Wang who is circumnavigating the globe on Qingdao, expressed his experiences on the race so far: “Sometimes, I wake up with countless stars shining in the dark night sky, guiding our way of heading, and sometimes I come up on deck with burning sun hanging in the mid sky, heating the deck and leaving no shadow to hide from it; sometimes I climb up from a 45 degree angle with heavy weather gear to fight the storms and the waves. I enjoy my bumpy sailing trip on board with crew from all around the world. I’m proud that I’m representing my city, and my country to join the race, and sailing on the boat carrying the bright Chinese national flag on main sail. Bon voyage and good sailing to Qingdao!”

Image: Ziqi Wang

Celebrating the start of the Clipper 2023-24 Race

Madame Zang Aimin, Executive Vice President of Qingdao Olympic Sailing City Development Association, visited the Clipper Race Start in Portsmouth, UK, to wave off the eleven teams, including the Qingdao team and Round the World Ambassador Ziqi (Zack) Wang who is circumnavigating the globe.

Madame Zang provided a momentous welcome and well wishes for the Skipper, AQP and Race Crew during the Qingdao team’s official naming ceremony, featuring a speech and presentation of gifts to the team and, of course, the famous local Tsingtao beer. The Race Crew had an incredible performance from Chinese dancers, celebrating the culture of Qingdao that will be carried around the world.

Image: Chinese dancers during the Qingdao naming ceremony at Race Start

During the Race Start, the Partner Forum provided the opportunity for the international array of Clipper Race partners to meet one another and understand each other's partnership objectives whilst enabling networking.

Madam Zhang Aimin did a presentation on the 18-year partnership, showcasing how the Host Port and Team Partnership has evolved, strengthening year on year. The presentation highlighted how a partnership with the Clipper Race has been woven into a wide campaign to springboard the growth of sailing in China, exposing more and more people to the thrill of ocean racing.

The Clipper Race will be visiting Qingdao for the ninth time from 18 March 2024, ready for one of the most highly-anticipated stopovers of the circumnavigation. The welcome that Clipper Race crew receive on arrival is second-to-none and is followed by a stopover programme packed with tourism and cultural events that really show off everything that the Sailing City has to offer before the crew depart for the huge race across the North Pacific to Seattle.

Image: Clipper 2017-18 Race in Qingdao

The Qingdao team is currently sailing across the Roaring Forties from Cape Town to Fremantle, Australia. Follow the Qingdao team’s progress on the Clipper Race Viewer.