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February 21, 2012

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Home » City specials » Qingdao

Yacht race drifts into Qingdao

QINGDAO is gearing up to host the 2011-2012 Clipper Round the World Yacht Race. The city plans many events in honor of the sailors, who will also get out into the community to talk about their experiences in circumnavigating the globe, writes Tan Weiyun.

The 2011-12 Clipper Round the World Yacht Race comes to Qingdao, Shandong Province, tomorrow. The Qingdao stopover will run to March 4.

This year's race is 64,373 kilometers and it will take 11 months to complete the circumnavigation. It is divided into eight legs with stops at 15 ports. Leg five of the race will end with a grand welcoming reception and awards ceremony in Qingdao.

The yacht race, held every two years, is the largest amateur yacht race in the world.

The global adventure started from Southampton, UK, on July 31, 2011. The boats return to Britain on July 22.

They cross the Atlantic Ocean, the South Atlantic, the Southern Ocean, the Java and South China Sea plus the mighty Pacific. It passes two of the three great capes - Cape of Good Hope and Cape Leeuwin. The race includes a stop in New Zealand for the first time in its history.

Ten boats from China, the UK, Australia, Singapore, Finland and the Netherlands are competing in the race this year.

The China boat is named Qingdao and is a 68-foot (21-meter) yacht. Six Chinese sailors take on this global challenge while Ian Conchie, a professional sailor from the Isle of Wight in the UK, is the captain.

The six amateur sailors trained for several months in Qingdao and two weeks in England.

"Being named skipper of Qingdao was a really nice surprise," says Conchie. "I knew Chris Stanmore-Major, skipper of Qingdao in Clipper 09-10, and knew some of the Chinese crew that came over for training last time. Watching the TV series on the last race you can see what a massive stopover it is in Qingdao. It's the capital of sailing in China and the Chinese are massively embracing the sport. It's an honor to now be part of this."

Located on the Shandong Peninsula in Jiaozhou Bay, facing the Yellow Sea, Qingdao is home to more than 7 million people. More than 15 million people visit the city every year.

It is China's sailing city with plenty of sandy beaches, natural parks and waterfront facilities. The city played host to the sailing events at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games.

Qingdao and Clipper have been working hand in hand since 2005 when the city fielded an entry and was a stopover in the race for the first time.

Last month Clipper signed a major sponsorship deal with Qingdao to continue its participation in the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race through 2016.

A series of celebrations will be held from February 22 to March 4, turning Qingdao into a "sea of joy."

The boats are estimated to reach the port between February 22 and 25. Each yacht will be given a grand welcoming party. The sailors will be presented with traditional Chinese cloaks, hats, silk scarves and the mascots of the Dragon Year. Fireworks shows and lion dances as well as percussion performances will be held.

On February 28, an award ceremony for victors in the leg five will be held, followed by a banquet party, which is more like a grand gala that includes opera, ballet and magic performances.

On February 29, a Qingdao Seafood Festival will begin at the Qingdao Olympics Sailing Center. Dozens of local delicacies including roasted squid, braised pig feet, mackerel dumplings, wontons in chicken broth and sautéed clams with chili as well as hot-and-sour fish ball soup will be available.

Through March 7, a shopping festival is being held at Qingdao's shopping malls.

From tomorrow to March 4, there will be singing and dance performances every morning at the sailing center's grand square for about 90 minutes. In the afternoon, various sports and acrobatics shows - Chinese kung fu, yangko dance, judo, kendo, kickboxing, horse dressage, yoga and wrestling - will be held.

In order to brand the "Sailing City," a number of high-tech boat models are to be introduced to the Olympic Sailing Center.

In addition, the sailors participating in the race will visit some local homes, schools and neighborhoods to mingle with the locals.

They will also learn how to make Qingdao dumplings, sing local operas and write Chinese calligraphy.

Sailing lectures will be conducted in the city's key sailing schools and children's clubs so students can get a close look at their "sailing heroes."

On March 4, the sailors will start the next leg of the race, which takes them across the Pacific Ocean to California in the United States.


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