This was the seventh consecutive Clipper Race as both a Host Port and Team Partner for China’s Sailing City of Qingdao and the 2017-18 edition proved to be one to remember when team Qingdao raised the bar by finishing an impressive third overall.
Qingdao’s best ever finish wasn’t a big surprise, with the team performing at a high level throughout the race, spurred on by its war cry – always led by the red bearded round the worlder Mike Sweet - of “Qingdao, Qingdao, Qingdao, jia you, jia you, jia you”.
The first podium came in Sydney – a third place behind Sanya Serenity Coast and Visit Seattle – which was enough to keep the team on top of the overall standings. Skipper Chris Kobusch said: “We had a good run around Tasmania and then we sailed into another wind hole. The rest of the fleet started catching up and we were then in a battle with Sanya Serenity Coast and Visit Seattle up the east coast of Australia. On the last day they managed to overtake us, we had one really bad tack and they got us but well done to them. But we are really stoked to get a podium here in Sydney."
The All-Australian Leg 4 had a dramatic end. Firstly, Qingdao was hit by a dramatic Southerly Buster, one that the Skipper won’t forget in a hurry after being woken up by a nap by Leg 4 and 8 crew member Rory Rhind. Chris wrote in his Skipper Blog: “We were sailing along nicely on a close reach in a 15 knot north-easterly breeze, when the on watch spotted an odd cloud formation coming in from the south. While taking pictures, they also sent one member of their watch down below to wake me up. In the politest British way, he woke me and said: "Skipper, would like you to come on deck please and have a look at an interesting cloud formation?" No urgency in his voice. No panic. Like the British would have a cup of tea while the world comes to an end. When I looked out of the companion way the "interesting cloud formation" was dangerously close. The time it took to get my life jacket and come on deck was enough for the wind to shift to a southerly hitting us with over 40 knots.”
There was more excitement to come, as Rory explained at the time in his Crew Diary: “The sky all around us was lit up by lightning in the clouds, some of which was very bright and very close and at times as mesmerising like watching fireworks but without the accompanying oohs and ahhs.
“Then, out of nowhere, a bolt hit the mast with a deafening crack. The boat was silhouetted against the horizon, and we all felt the shudder as the bolt surged through the boat. Those touching anything metal felt the charge going through them like touching the escalator in a department store while the skipper on the helm got a shock - that would have been much worse had it not been for the heavy insulation. We looked to the top of the mast and saw a little fire which quickly went out but we knew that meant everything electronic up there was fried.”
Despite the lightning strike, Qingdao still managed a very respectable fifth place finish in the Whitsundays – making it just in time to toast the gorgeous sunset over the Great Barrier Reef with a well-earned drink!
Whilst Qingdao would eventually concede the top spot on the overall leaderboard to Sanya Serenity Coast, the team never fell out of the top three, largely thanks to their Scoring Gate dominance. Qingdao picked up 19 bonus points from the Scoring Gate and only opted against going for it in three races.
The four podiums also helped; the next pennant came in Sanya after Qingdao again finished third, this time behind PSP Logistics and Dare To Lead.
Qingdao was given a welcome to remember at the Sanya Serenity Coast Marina but their reception at the newly constructed, state of the art Wanda Yacht Club in the West Coast New Area of Qingdao.
The Qingdao Prize Giving was also on another level, and culminated in Qingdao Skipper Chris being doused in Tsingtao beer by his fellow Skippers.
The warm reception in its home port must have inspired Qingdao; despite a phenomenal sea state, which saw the fleet experience 14 metre waves and hurricane force winds, Qingdao excelled in the North Pacific crossing, taking first place in the race to Seattle. Round the world crew member Greg Schey, a Doctor from Swansea, Wales, said: “It was very exciting, it was nice to get some big waves and big surfs which we were expecting on Leg 3, so nice to finally have it.
"The Pacific delivered as promised, apart from the abundance of wind holes, but up at the 45th parallel it was good fun. It was at times tough at night when you can’t see and have spray coming over and getting the crew completely soaked but when you are going with the wind it doesn’t feel like a massive hurricane.
“The win has been a long time coming, I think, but the team pulled together quite nicely."
There was another win to come, with the team also taking the coveted middle place on the podium during the thirteenth and final race from Derry-Londonderry to Liverpool. Round the world crew member Rose Todd described the finish in her final Crew Blog, saying: “Action stations! When trimming has no impact on our speed down comes the yankee and up goes the Windseeker. And true to its name the wind sort of returns in a half-hearted way and we sail on all the time keeping an eye over our shoulder on Liverpool 2018 and Garmin which have materialised over the horizon.
“Then finally it's countdown to the finish line ... where we cross in style and in first place. A fitting end to a well sailed Race 13 and Qingdao’s campaign sailing round the world. I would like to especially thank and congratulate our Skipper - Chris Kobusch - for leading Qingdao to a series of victories and seeing us safe through numerous adventures and I would like to thank the many Qingdao crewmates who helped make this last year such a memorable one.”
Some of the memorable crew members were the Qingdao Ambassadors. There were two Ambassadors on board for each leg of the race and all made a huge impact and taught the entire fleet about China’s Sailing City. Yupeng Sun, known as ‘Sunrise’ to his teammates, took part in the US Coast-to-Coast Leg 7 and wrote in his Crew Blog: “This race is really a challenge to me. I have had to overcome many difficulties, such as seasickness, language and exhaustion, but I have learnt so much, such as seamanship skills, teamwork and how to live on a boat. I have made bread for the first time whilst sailing. It’s also my first time to watch whales in the wild and to watch the Southern Cross stars at night. So many first times, what a different life!”
To re-live the Qingdao Clipper Race experience, head to the team’s crew blog page on the Clipper Race website.
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