Clipper 2011-12 Round the World Race entry Qingdao named

Mr Yuan Zhiping and the skipper and crew of Qingdao on board Qingdao - Clipper 2011-12 Round the World Yacht Race
Clipper 2011-12 Round the World Yacht Race is the world’s longest ocean race at 40,000 miles. It will begin from Southampton on 31 July 2011.

Qingdao, one of ten internationally sponsored entries competing in the Clipper 2011-12 Round the World Yacht Race, has taken one step closer to the race start with the naming of the yacht in a special ceremony at St Katharine Docks in London.

Skipper of Qingdao, Ian Conchie, and his crew are preparing for the start of Clipper 2011-12 race. Qingdao will host a stopover in February 2012 when all ten of the 68-foot stripped down racing yachts and their crews will visit the Chinese sailing capital for a week-long celebration.

Leading the naming ceremony was Mr Yuan Zhiping, Vice President of Qingdao Yachting Association and consultant to Qingdao Sports Federation.

Mr Yuan said, 'We appreciate this naming ceremony for Qingdao on behalf of Qingdao Municipal Government and the Qingdao people. As we all know the Clipper Race is one of the biggest sailing races around the world and it is also very famous in Qingdao because this race will mark the fourth time the race will visit Qingdao.

'On 31 July the race will start from Southampton and there will be a big ceremony for the start. We are also expecting from the Municipal Government the biggest ceremony ever to welcome the fleet to Qingdao as well as the Qingdao crew.'

To begin proceedings and give the invited guests a small taste of the welcome the crews will receive upon their arrival in Qingdao, a lion dance was performed by the Chinese Association of Southampton. Qingdao is twinned with the city of Southampton which will host the race start for the first time in the event’s 15-year history.

Mr Yuan, Sir Robin Knox-Johnston and Ian Conchie performing the ‘Awakening the Dragon’ ceremony - Clipper 2011-12 Round the World Yacht Race

Mr Yuan Zhiping was joined by Clipper Race Chairman, Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, and Qingdao’s skipper, Ian Conchie, on the deck of the Chinese entry to perform the naming ceremony.

Sir Robin said, 'This is the fourth time Qingdao has had a boat in this race and we’ve seen some enormous changes in Qingdao over the past eight years. When we first went there in Clipper 05-06 they hadn’t built the Olympic Sailing Centre, then in Clipper 07-08 we took our boats in to try it out, we saw it grow and we saw it being used for the Olympic Games which was fantastic. But I think one of the things that has given us the greatest pleasure is the way the people of Qingdao accept the Clipper crews into their homes. It is a wonderful cultural exchange and a wonderful sign of the friendship that you show us and which we appreciate enormously.

'Another great thing about Qingdao’s entry in the race is that the city of Qingdao has given us a number of citizens to sail on our boats. In this race we have nine sailing on this boat; people from Qingdao, learning how to sail, taking their skills back and introducing them to the people of China when they return home. In this way we can spread sailing throughout the world.'

The Chinese entry’s skipper was then invited to perform a ceremony known as ‘Awakening the Dragon’. Traditionally performed in Dragon Boat racing, a Daoist monk will kick off a race event by applying a dot of red paint to the eyes of the carved wooden dragon head which adorns a boat. This symbolic gesture is meant to end the dragon’s slumber and re-energize its life force, or chi, for the race to follow. So, following this tradition, Ian painted a red eye on either side of the bow to fight off evil spirits and bring the boat luck for the race ahead.

Ian said, 'It makes me very proud and I’m very excited to be skippering the Qingdao entry in the Clipper 2011-12 Race. I’ve had the fortune of being able to sail with the Chinese crew from Qingdao already and I’m really looking forward to sailing with all my crew over the next 12 months. I’m sure they’ll be wonderful representatives for the city of Qingdao.

'I think you can safely say that with the design we have on the side of our boat that she’s the best looking yacht in the fleet with possibly the best looking crew in the fleet! And I think I can speak for all of my crew when I say that we cannot wait to see the reception in Qingdao after hearing so much about it. It will be an especially momentous occasion for me because, as many of the crew already know, I will celebrate my 40th birthday just after we arrive.'

Clipper Round the World website