Qingdao native aims to make sailing history

Updated: 2014-06-09 04:53

By JACK FREIFELDER in New York (China Daily USA)

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Vicky Song's near year-long trip around the world has her poised to be the first Chinese woman to circumnavigate the globe.

About nine months ago, a crew of sailors aboard a ship representing the city of Qingdao, Shandong province, shipped out from London to France.

But the short 400-mile jaunt was only just the beginning of a nearly year-long endeavor for one of the ship's crewmembers - Vicky Song.

Faces have come and gone since the ship first set sail last Sept 1, but one constant has been Song - a Qingdao native who is attempting to become the first Chinese woman to circumnavigate the globe.

"It was in last year's race where I took part and I really enjoyed it," Song said Friday in an interview with China Daily. "It was quite positive."

Song and the Qingdao group, sponsored by the the sailing city of Qingdao, are one of 12 international teams taking part in the 2013-2014 Clipper Round the World Yacht Race.

The event spans 40,000 miles and features stops at 15 ports on six continents, making it the world's longest ocean race - according to Clipper Ventures.

Over the better part of a year, the boat has docked in a number of international ports including Rio De Janeiro; Cape Town; New York; Qingdao; and Sydney.

In total, close to 700 people representing 40 countries have competed in this year's edition of the race - Clipper's ninth installment of the event.

Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, the founder of Clipper Ventures PLC, established the contest in 1995 to give anyone with an interest in sailing the chance to experience circumnavigation.

Johnston, an Englishman, was the first man to perform a non-stop, solo circumnavigation of the globe in the late 1960s.

Organizers for the event put together a fleet of yachts - 70-foot, stripped down racing yachts - and provide quality skippers to lead each team. But the rest of the crew is composed entirely of amateur sailors.

Song, a 31-year-old club manager, had never sailed offshore before taking part in one leg of the 2011-2012 Clipper race.

"If you do a leg you're excited, but doing the whole race around the world is a much bigger commitment," she said. "When I started this year I said, 'OK, this is my life for a year.'"

Jonathan Levy, Global Business and Communications director for Clipper Ventures, said he thinks Song "got the bug" during her first experience with the race.

"First of all, we take people from all walks of life on this race and they take on the harsh conditions," Levy said. "Vicky put her name forward to be considered for the around the world opportunity on this race. She demonstrates that China - amongst other nations - has the capability of developing athletes in this sport, which they're already doing."

The 12 participating teams in this year's race left New York's North Marina Cove in downtown Manhattan on Saturday for the last few legs before the race finishes up on July 12 in London.

While winning the race would be nice, Song said that completing the journey is an accomplishment in and of itself.

"Just finishing the race is not easy," Song said. "A lot of people on the water either quit or skip a couple legs, but those who stay all the way through really have perseverance. I think they're really tough."

Nonetheless, Song said she is also looking forward to seeing friends and family at home when the race is over.

Levy, with Clipper Ventures, said: "I think Vicky is a great ambassador, not only for herself and for sailing, but also for Qingdao and the country of China."

"She also demonstrates something of the spirit of the modern China: going out and embracing the world," Levy said. "Vicky hasn't given up and in five weeks she will become the first Chinese woman to sail around the world."


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