Clipper Round the World Yacht Race fleet arriving in Qingdao

First teams arrive in Qingdao - Clipper Round the World Yacht Race 2011-12
Clipper 2011-12 Round the World Yacht Race fleet continue on day 19 of race 8 from Singapore to Qingdao. The first teams to complete race eight have started to arrive in Qingdao, China, today to a hero’s welcome.

De Lage Landen clinched first place as Geraldton Western Australia celebrated line honours. Meanwhile, Gold Coast Australia secured a podium place despite a medevac off Taiwan.

Line honours were taken by Geraldton Western Australia who crossed the line at 23.28 UTC on Tuesday 21 February 2012. They were followed by De Lage Landen just 23 minutes later at 23.51 UTC. However, because the Race Committee granted a request from De Lage Landen for redress after leaving the race to support Gold Coast Australia during a medical emergency, their adjusted race time was 6 hours 37 minutes shorter than Geraldton Western Australia.

Gold Coast Australia, which receives no compensation for the downtime it suffered in having to sail two injured crew members ashore to Taiwan, put on a valiant effort to stay on the podium and claw back third place, crossing the finish line at 01:43:47 UTC on Wednesday 22 February.

The fourth and final boat to arrive in Qingdao on Wednesday was Singapore, a yacht sponsored by Keppel Corporation, which crossed the line at 04:27:00 UTC. The crew were still jubilant from completing the ocean sprint in race eight in the fastest time, resulting in a maximum and very valuable three extra points.

The teams were greeted at the Qingdao Olympic Sailing Centre with a specular ceremony including fireworks, drums and, not least, dozens of Chinese and international media who all fought to get pictures and interviews with the first Clipper Race crews to arrive in China’s ‘sailing city’.

They were formally welcomed to the city by Wang Xiulin, Vice Mayor of Qingdao Municipal People’s Government. He said, 'Battling treacherous waves and ferocious winds in this grim winter, you have successfully finished this harsh leg with your strong will, outstanding courage and professional sailing prowess. This remarkable feat allows the Qingdao citizens to once again experience this splendid world-class sailing event.'

As De Lage Landen skipper, Stuart Jackson stepped onto the pontoon in Qingdao after 18 days at sea in this challenging stage from Singapore, he said, 'I’m incredibly proud of all the crew, they’ve worked so hard culminating in this victory in the race from Singapore to Qingdao. What a stunning welcome by the hundreds of Qingdao people in the marina. We couldn’t have hoped for a better arrival celebrating our first win.'

The teams were surrounded by dragon dancers whose performance demonstrated the respect the people of Qingdao have for the crews. Gifts of flowers, hats and scarves were given to the crew and the skipper was draped in a yellow cape, which symbolises nobleness and in ancient China it was only worn when emperors and generals set out on battle fields and returned victorious.

Juan Coetzer, Skipper of Geraldton Western Australia, was both jubilant and reflective. He said, 'We managed to get a line honours and next time we want line honours with the first place. The crew knew this race was a tough challenge and they bonded really well, helped each other out and got the reward in form of a second place. Once you have a sniff of the podium, when you start from the bottom, there is only room for progress, and next we want a first. It’s quite emotional and overwhelming to be received this way by the Qingdao people after a tough race.'

Geraldton Western Australia crew member Ian Geraghty, a 52-year-old business owner from Southsea in the UK, was typical of the crews bowled over by the welcome awaiting them in Qingdao. He said, 'Everyone has talked about the overwhelming welcome you get in Qingdao and it has certainly surpassed all my expectations.

'I’m mesmerised by everything going on and the paparazzi following us. It is very uplifting after a tough race and we’ve been working hard all night to secure our line honours.'

Despite the setback of having to medivac two injured crew to Taiwan Gold Coast Australia arrived with well earned pride in their performance of clawing back a podium position. Skipper Richard Hewson said, 'It was a tough race, not only physically and mentally, but also emotionally.

'We were doing so well and when Tim Burgess got knocked down and broke his leg, the crew just handled it so well, with all the Clipper Race training showing its merit straight away. Everyone knew exactly what to do and was very professional about it.

'The crew was quite traumatised after the experience, but we turned that around and were all determined to get back on the podium, which is exactly what we did and here we are. Third place, and possibly our best victory in the race so far.'

This was reflected by Gold Coast Australia crew member, 53-year-old Queenslander Deb Grant. She said, 'The rest of this race has really been in honour of Tim and Nick, who got injured and were evacuated in Taiwan. It is great to be in Qingdao, seeing Nick ashore and to all celebrate that we managed to reach a third place despite of everything.'

The distinctive red livery of Singapore loomed out of the late afternoon mist in Qingdao to complete Wednesday’s arrivals. The team was in high spirits having recently been the fastest boat in the ocean sprint off Taiwan.

'The arrival has been absolutely crazy,' said Singapore skipper Ben Bowley. 'We have had an excellent race from a boat speed and tactics point of view. The crew has done a superb job and nobody hurt themselves, which was our main objective when we left – getting the boat and crew there in one piece.

'The fantastic send-off from Singapore certainly set us up really well for this quite tough leg and we managed to protect both the crew and the boat, bag a fourth place and win the ocean sprint. So I’m absolutely ecstatic.'

Crew member Sherlyn Chen, a 19-year-old Singaporean student, was equally positive. She commented, 'We would have loved to be on the podium, but taking fourth place and winning the sprint is something we are very proud of in this tough leg.

'To be here in person and experience this arrival ceremony is absolutely astounding. It’s been one of the toughest races so far from extremely hot to extremely cold weather conditions and it is fantastic to be on shore and experience the Chinese culture.'

During the stopover in Qingdao a diverse programme of cultural activities awaits the crew and skippers of the ten-strong fleet, including meeting local families and ceremonial activities, as well as sponsors using the Clipper Race as a platform to do business and build relationships with Chinese organisations.

The rest of the Clipper 11-12 Round the World Yacht Race fleet are expected to arrive in Qingdao over the next few days.

This is the fourth time the city has sponsored an entry and hosted the Clipper Race fleet. Qingdao recently signed a contract to sponsor two more races until 2016 to build on its legacy as the sailing venue of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games and to continue to strengthen its brand as China’s sailing city.

The race started in Southampton, UK on 31 July 2011 and will end there on 22 July 2012 after taking 51 weeks to travel over 40,000 miles visiting 15 ports of call on six continents.

First teams arrive in Qingdao - Clipper Round the World Yacht Race 2011-12

First teams arrive in Qingdao - Clipper Round the World Yacht Race 2011-12

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