Qingdao is famous for beer, beaches, German history, and in recent years, sailing. The host of the Sailing Regatta for the Beijing 2008 Summer Olympics, Qingdao is growing into its role as China’s Sailing City, with successful stopovers from Clipper and Volvo races, and now the upcoming Qingdao Match Cup. Valencia Sailing recently profiled Qingdao’s rise on the sailing circuit which was cemented by the signing of a five year agreement with the ISAF World Match Racing Tour to host the Qingdao Match Cup, with the inaugural race taking place later this year from October 19-24. Later this month, keep an eye out for the Qingdao International Sailing Week held August 21-29.
From Valencia Sailing via the official World Match Racing Tour site:
London, UK, 26 July 2010 – The coastal city of Qingdao has gone from virtually unheard of outside China to a venue synonymous with world class sailing events. China’s “Sailing City” grabbed the international spotlight with the organization of the highly successful 2008 Olympic games but sailing will be the spirit and legacy of Qingdao. Two years after the Olympics, Qingdao continues this strong and successful sailing legacy by welcoming the world’s premiere match racing circuit, the World Match Racing Tour. This is no coincidence as Qingdao has long been connected with sailing events. The earliest sailing race in Qingdao dates back to 1904, when the German Royal Yacht Club held a regatta there. This was also the earliest sailing event recorded in Chinese history. It truly is the birthplace of sailing in China.
Olympic Games 2008
The Qingdao International Marina & Olympic Sailing Center (QIMOSC) is located at the former Beihai dockyard and covers approximately 45 hectares. Built at a cost of almost half a billion US dollars, including the re-siting of the old shipyard, the QIMOSC covers 111 acres of land and comprises a the purposely-built Olympic village, an athletes’ centre, administrative centre, a large media centre and a logistics block. Former ISAF President Goran Petersson had stated that Chinese city was “the best venue I have ever seen for an Olympic sailing event.”On the organizational side Qingdao demonstrated its ability to host big international events as a total of 400 athletes from 62 countries and regions participated in the Olympic sailing event and 80 athletes from 25 countries and regions participated in the Paralympic sailing event.The 2008 Olympics in Qingdao also marked another historic moment for the world’s most populous nation. When Chinese sailor Yin Jian crossed the finish line at the medal race on her RS:X windsurf she gave her country the first ever gold medal in sailing. Never before was the Chinese national anthem heard at the prize-giving ceremony of a sailing event in the history of Olympic Games.
Clipper Round the World Race
Qingdao’s participation in the Clipper Race was instrumental in the city’s emergence as a world class sailing venue and helped secure the rights to stage the sailing events of the 2008 Olympic Games. Qingdao was a stopover of the round-the-world race in three consecutive editions, 2006, 2008 and 2010, taking part as well with a yacht bearing its name.
Volvo Ocean Race 2008-9
Banking on the successful Olympic games and the Clipper stopovers, becoming a port of the Volvo Ocean Race was a natural step in the progression of the city towards becoming a premier world sailing venue. After a grueling race that started under the hot weather in Singapore, the VOR fleet arrived in Qingdao in January 2009 only to be met by a cold winter climate. Despite the windy sub-zero winters, the Qingdao stopover proved to be a success with tens of thousands of locals that swarmed the race village.
World Match Racing Tour – Qingdao Match Cup
Given the ambitions and efforts of the city to further consolidate its position as a premier yachting venue not only in China but throughout Asia and the world, it was evident its next step would be to host an event of the World Match Racing Tour. In fact it will be the very first match racing event to be staged in China and will undoubtedly bring the Chinese public close to the sport of sailing in general and match racing in particular.
The Qingdao Match Cup will, obviously, make use of the existing facilities while racing will take place between the Olympic Sailing Centre and the new city area that will host tens of thousands of spectators on a daily basis. It is also forecast that the Qingdao Match Cup will benefit from windier conditions in late October but with the current adding another element of difficulty to the already tricky conditions, Qingdao will prove to be an unforgiving venue for the world’s best match racers. Small errors will be heavily punished.
While still quite a number of match racers in the World Match Racing Tour have never sailed there, for two of the Tour’s top sailors Qingdao will be a familiar place, bringing back fond memories of gold Olympic medals. Team Origin’s Ben Ainslie and Iain Percy climbed on the highest position in the podium, the former in the Finn class and the latter in the Star class.
For Ben Ainslie, “Qingdao is a tricky place to sail, it will be interesting to see where they put a match racing course in for Qingdao Match Cup and how different the conditions will be in China during October compared to August when I was there for the Games”.
Ainslie’s teammate Iain Percy is confident “the addition of Qingdao this year as a Stage in the World Match Racing Tour is a real turning point for the series. It introduces the Chinese market to the global match racing world and the sailors get to race on waters used for the 2008 Games. I feel that it is an important step in the future of the WMRT to take the racing to every corner of the globe and inspire yet more fans to get involved in a sport we all love. Qingdao Match Cup will have top class facilities as part of the Olympic legacy and I am personally positive to be returning to a venue that holds very fond memories for me from my experience of competing at the last Games”.
One aspect of Qingdao Match Cup though that sailors will not find tricky at all is the total prize pool. For the first time ever in the World Match Racing Tour, the local organizers in Qingdao will put at stake an impressive US$500,000, setting a new standard, not only for the Tour but also for the sport of sailing.
Photo Credit @ Rasmus Andersson