China. Dame of the oceans, Ellen MacArthur starts Clipper Race from Olympic Games city
Ellen MacCarthur meets Clipper crews: © Ingrid Abery
Photo: Ellen MacCarthur meets Clipper crews: © Ingrid Abery - click picture to enlarge
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Sunday, 09 April 2006
Catherine Green:

Qingdao, the sailing city of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, came alive yesterday as Dame Ellen MacArthur counted down the start of leg five of the Clipper 05-06 Round the World Yacht Race to Victoria, Canada after leading the fleet out in formation on board her record breaking trimaran B&Q. At 1200 hrs local time (0400 GMT) the Cardiff Clipper was the first of the ten-strong fleet to cross the start line closely followed Durban.

In fine conditions with 20-25 knots of breeze and sunshine reflecting off the skyscraper coastline, the fleet embarked on the longest leg in the history of the Clipper Race at over 5,600 miles. The race will take them across the North Pacific where the crew will experience some of the toughest sailing conditions since the race start in Liverpool last September.

Before setting off, Solo-Yachtswoman Dame Ellen MacArthur visited each boat to wish the crew fair winds and a safe passage. She commented on her admiration for the amateur sailors, "this is the longest leg of their trip and everyone is very excited and very positive. I know what it feels liked on the morning of a trip and they just want to get out there and race. It is an amazing achievement and I wish them all the best."

On departure, the dockside was crammed with dancing dragons, performers and an army of musicians. In attendance was the Major of Qingdao, dignitaries from all over China and the Beijing Olympic Committee. All ten Clipper Skippers were presented with ceremonial kites to fly and bottles for each boat to throw overboard on the International Date Line containing messages of goodwill from local Qingdao schoolchildren. As

the Skippers re-joined their crews, 5,000 racing pigeons and confetti mortars were released.

Hosting the Clipper Race has been 'ideal training' for the city of Qingdao in preparation for the 29th Games as Mr Li Fengli, Deputy Secretary General of the Olympic Sailing Committee commented, "the Clipper Race is internationally renowned and will bring Qingdao to the attention of the world. It is a wonderful feeling to have the race in our City; it is the most important event in the history of Qingdao."

The race is due to arrive in Victoria, Canada on 6 May.

Last Updated ( Sunday, 09 April 2006 )
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