Published: Monday, 14 July 2014

The Chinese entry competing in the Clipper 2013-2014 Round the World Yacht Race arrived back in London Saturday as thousands of spectators lined the Thames to get a glimpse of the 12-strong international fleet after it conquered some of the toughest sailing conditions out there.

Qingdao took part in a Parade of Sail in front of Tower Bridge as tens of thousands of spectators, friends and family cheered on the team as they arrived safely back to St. Katherine docks where it all began 11 months earlier. The Chinese entry also made history when round the world crew member Vicky Song became the first Chinese woman to complete a circumnavigation.

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The team was handed a special prize when they took to the stage after being voted winners of the Henri Lloyd Clipper Race Seamanship Award – voted for by the public after the team went to the rescue of Mission Performance when two crew members were injured and had to be taken off the boat during Race 7 from Hobart to Tasmania to Brisbane, Australia.

Mission Performance then suffered engine failure and Qingdao stopped racing to assist them, towing the yacht back into Hobart. Two Qingdao crewmembers then joined the Mission Performance team so it had enough crewmembers to be able to restart the race.

“Winning the Henri Lloyd Clipper Race Seamanship Award is a huge honour and I’m extremely proud of our team,” says Gareth Glover, skipper of Qingdao. “I didn’t think anything could top how we feel today after completing this incredible global challenge, but this award really does mean so much to us.”

“I think I speak for the whole team when I say what an unbelievable experience this last year has been for all of us. You step on board with a group of people who have never met before and within days you start to build your team and see these amateur sailors become and behave like professional, seasoned sailors. I’m proud of each and every one of them.”

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Crowds gathered to see Vicky Song take the stage as the first Chinese woman to sail around the world. In celebration of her remarkable achievement Guo Chan, the first Chinese man to sail solo around the world, and Lijia Xu, the Gold Olympic Medallist in sailing in the 2012 London Olympics were there to welcome Song home.

“This is an incredible moment for me and my family. There were times when I thought I wouldn’t be able to complete this incredible challenge – it’s not just about the sailing but also the psychological side of it too,” says Song. “When you live and breathe in a space that is 70 [feet] in length for so long sharing it with so many people, it really tests you as a person.”

After 40,000 miles Song couldn’t wait to speak to the one person who has been her inspiration to never give up during her epic global challenge. Song’s mother, who is battling terminal liver cancer back in Qingdao, China, remains her biggest supporter.

Qingdao finished in seventh place overall, just eight points behind its closest rival Old Pulteney.