Two Chinese teams take top two podiums in seventh stage of Clipper Race

It was a duo of Chinese teams, representing the cities of Qingdao and Zhuhai, who took first and second place in the latest stage of the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race. 

After a nail-biting end to the race, Qingdao, the team flying the flag for the sailing city in China, took the top spot on Race 7: Endless Discovery in Ha Long Bay, which saw teams take on a marathon 4,000nm race from Airlie Beach, Australia to Ha Long Bay, Vietnam. This was a momentous achievement for the team as it celebrates its first podium of the 2023-24 edition.

The team had held on tightly to first place for the last week of racing, but as they raced towards the finish the wind all but stopped, and the gap between Qingdao and competitor Zhuhai closed in. A narrow Finish Line, and better wind for the boats to the east and west meant that Skipper Philip Quinn and First Mate Henry Hallatt had to continue to push the team and boat hard to maintain its lead. However, the plan held together and on the debut race for the Skipper and First Mate duo, Qingdaoproudly sailed over the line in first place.

Reporting from the boat just after the team’s win, Skipper of Qingdao Philip Quinn said: “Oh my goodness what a race, and what a finish! We crossed the Finish Line just after midnight UTC, pushed to the very last metres by Zhuhai and UNICEF. It was a very nervous night not knowing where everyone was but knowing that they were coming to get us. As we got nearer to the line out of the mist came Zhuhai and UNICEF, both on a mission. Right down to the very last moments it really could have been anyone’s race. We are all ecstatic at being able to pull it off and take the win over some great competition.” 

Sailing closely behind Qingdao was Zhuhai, crossing the line just 40 minutes behind. The team made the bold decision to go further west than Qingdao in a battle to find the stronger winds, and it was a move that paid off. As Qingdao sat in a wind hole, Zhuhai managed to close the 30nm gap down to just 1.5nm, however, Qingdaomanaged to hold onto its lead until the end.

Zhuhai’s second place marks the fifth consecutive podium for the team representing the city of Zhuhai, home to its ‘Hundred Islands and Thousand Sails’. Just as the team crossed the Finish Line, Zhuhai Skipper James Finney said: “Well it has been quite a leg. The one constant this race for me personally has been my crew and AQP, they have done a stunning job of keeping this boat in the front five boats throughout the thrills and spills of this race and have fought incredibly hard for every metre.  

“It takes a lot to get ahead in a fleet as competitive as this one. Any team in this race is capable of streaking ahead of you if you drop the ball for even a split second. So, I am insanely proud of them all for the massive effort they have put in and the way they have carried themselves in this race. Thanks for watching supporters at home, hope we kept you in suspense, it was certainly quite tense this end!” 

Sailing on board Zhuhai were three Zhuhai Ambassadors: Qiang Zeng, Jingyun Huang and Xiding Zhao, representing the city. Round the world Ambassador Qiang Zeng, said on arrival: “We just finished crossing the line in second, it’s wonderful! This leg was challenging and hot, as we crossed the Equator again. We did a great job, and made it to Ha Long Bay in second!” 

With both of the Chinese boats celebrating the Chinese New Year earlier in this very race, some may say the Year of the Dragon has brought the fighting spirit out on board.

Third over the line was UNICEF, the boat backed by its charity namesake. The team sailed in just 1 hour, 28 minutes and 59 seconds behind second placed Zhuhai – a phenomenal achievement for three boats to arrive so close together after 22 days of racing.

Skipper, Dan Bodey, AQP Laura Hampton and the crew fought a valiant battle on the ocean racetrack, only to losing out of the second-place spot at the closing stages – with a frustrating wind hole at the end causing a tense end to its Race 7.

UNICEF was also one of only two yachts which went for the Scoring Gate earlier in Race 7, with several teams giving up the hunt for Bonus Points and opting to head for the north easterly trades. The team took the top three points after passing through the virtually marked gate first, but not before an intense jostle with neighbouring boat Perseverance that crossed just 3 minutes later.

UNICEF Skipper Dan Bodey said on arriving into port: “What a way to finish, we had a really tough battle with Qingdao and Zhuhai. The winds just shut down on all of us, so we were drifting around at three to four knots, drastically trying to get to the finish first. Unfortunately for us, Zhuhai managed to get a better line, and get in before us. It’s been a good race, and we are super happy to be here with third place and being first through the Scoring Gate we’ve had a phenomenal time. 

“The whole crew, all the way from Race Start in Airlie Beach, the morale, everyone has been working really well together. You can see the round the worlders come and bring the leggers up to speed and pass their own knowledge on which has been really nice.”

All 11 yachts were docked at the Ha Long Bay International Cruise Port within just over 36 hours. This is a testimony to the grit and determination of the teams who completed the 4,000nm passage, dipping their toe in the Pacific Ocean and South China Sea, in just 23 days.

Once settled into port, Host Port Partner, Quang Ninh Tourism Department officially welcomed Race Crew with a traditional Vietnamese Welcome Ceremony. Lion dancing, flower gifting and many photo opportunities with newfound fans were held at this celebration of the teams’ achievements.

The fleet has so far sailed over 20,000nm, completing half of the circumnavigation, since its start on 3 September 2023 from Portsmouth. The teams have raced from the UK to Puerto Sherry in Spain; Punta del Este, Uruguay; Cape Town, South Africa; Fremantle, Newcastle and Airlie Beach in Australia before sailing to Ha Long Bay, Vietnam, where all 11 yachts are now docked.

Next, the fleet will race to Zhuhai in China, where the yachts will arrive from 6-7 March, before racing on to Qingdao, arriving in port 21-22 March.

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