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QINGDAO, China — At the end of what has been arguably the toughest and closest legs of the 35,000mile Clipper 09-10 Round the World Yacht Race, which is contested by crews from all walks of life, Cape Breton Island has arrived in Qingdao to a hero’s welcome.
Finishing Race 6 in sixth place, line honours went to Spirit of Australia. Jamaica Lightning Bolt took second place and the final podium was claimed by Qingdao, much to the delight of the home crowd who had turned out in the thousands to see the fleet’s arrival.
As he stepped on to the pontoon in Qingdao’s Olympic Sailing Centre, Cape Breton Island’s skipper, Jan Ridd, reflected on the race which delivered some of the most varied sailing conditions so far.
“ We were expecting a lot worse than we actually had but it was bad enough,” said Ridd. “I think most of the boats had a hard time of it on the way up. North of Taiwan we had two or three days of conditions that were as bad as I want to see on this race. Because of this I made a conscious decision to sail as conservatively as possible to save us from any damage. It probably cost us a few positions as we were leading the race up until that point but I have no regrets about it as we have arrived here safely and the boat is undamaged.
“ The crew coped extremely well with the conditions and I think the seas were a bit of a shock to them — when you actually have waves breaking over your head on the deck it’s a little extreme. I don’t think any amount of training could have prepared them for what it was like out there.”
The crew was formally welcomed to the city by Wang Xiulin, vice mayor of Qingdao and the Municipal People’s Government. He said, “It is the third time the Clipper Race has stopped at Qingdao and I’d like to extend, on behalf of Qingdao Municipal Government and Qingdao citizens, my sincerest welcome to skipper Jan Ridd and the sailors of Cape Breton Island and my warm congratulations for your wonderful performance in this leg.”
The Clipper 09-10 Race started from the Humber on the north east coast of England on Sept. 13, 2009 and will return to there on July 17. It is the only event in the world where people from all walks of life can take on the challenge of a lifetime and race around the globe on stripped down 68-foot ocean racing yachts.