Spirit of Australia first home

As Clipper Round the World Race reaches Qingdao

Sunday February 21st 2010, Author: Zoe Williamson, Location: China

Following four second place podiums in the Clipper 09-10 Round the World Yacht Race, Spirit of Australia has managed to secure an elusive first place by winning Race 6 from Singapore to Qingdao. At the end of what has been arguably the toughest and closest legs of the 35,000-mile global competition, which is contested by crews from all walks of life, Spirit of Australia crossed the finish line at 1307 local time (0507 GMT). Jamaica Lightning Bolt took second place by finishing at 1727 local time (0927 GMT) and Qingdao delighted the home crowd by taking the final podium position, their first of the race to date.

“After an incredibly tough race, we have come through and snatched a victory all of us can be proud,” said Brisbane born skipper, Brendan Hall. “Ten days ago, back in eighth position, we had set ourselves the goal of getting a mid-fleet position and keeping the boat undamaged for the next leg. To have overtaken the entire fleet was above what we thought was a realistic goal. In the end though, our dogged persistence paid off as it always does and the rougher the conditions became, the more this team excelled.”

A member of the 17-strong crew who took Spirit of Australia to victory was Cork crew member Sarah Boyle. The 27-year-old electronic engineer joined the Australian team when her yacht ran aground on a submerged reef in Race 5. Tired but visibly elated, Sarah said, “It was a very tough race, but it was brilliant. It is so rewarding to arrive in first place and to receive such a great welcome in to Qingdao - it’s been fantastic and as good as I could ever have dreamed.”

Michael Hanson from Perth signed up for the full circumnavigation of the world and was clearly ecstatic to be on the top step of the podium. Stepping ashore the 36-year-old managing director said, “I don’t do the cold at all well and there were times over the last few days when I couldn’t uncurl my fingers from the helm. But the welcome we have received here has been totally awesome.”

As the boat entered the marina of the Olympic Sailing Centre, the team was greeted by a cacophony of fireworks and drums and a media scrum fought to get pictures and interviews with the heroic crew. Parading up to a large stage, they received gifts of flowers and scarves while the skipper was draped in a red velvet cloak and adorned with a tiger head dress to mark the Chinese New Year. The Clipper fleet’s arrival in Qingdao coincides with the springtime festival and the dull thud of fireworks across the city serve as constant reminder that the 2010 celebrations are in full swing.

Mayor of Qingdao, Xia Geng, welcomed the crew to the city, saying, “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 Brendan Hall and the sailors of Spirit of Australia, and my warm congratulations to the Spirit of Australia for your wonderful performance in this leg.

“We’ve been following closely the latest news of the Clipper Race - 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 experience the splendour and charm of this world prestigious sailing event.

“During your stay in Qingdao, the hospitable Qingdao citizens will hold a series of activities with the sailors in celebration of the Chinese New Year. You will feel in person the atmosphere of this traditional Chinese festival and the friendship of our citizens as well.”

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