Imperial in the Far East

This summer, we had the incredibly opportunity to travel to Qingdao, China to sail 28ft Fareast28s in the ‘Top University Regatta 2017’ thanks to some great organisation and communication with the Chinese from Krystal, our vice-commodore. They offered to fly our first team to China and compete in the four day regatta. However, our captain/commodore Joe unfortunately couldn’t make it and thus Felix took up the mantle as a grossly unqualified skipper. Luckily the boats possessed dinghy-like finesse and handling characteristics – perfectly suited to Felix’s extensive 29er experience. This, combined with Mary’s extensive yacht sailing experience allowed us to somewhat competently sail a this 28-footer.

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We landed at 2pm local time in China after a long flight and were greeted by a party of organisers holding red rooster cuddly toys. This party included the liaison officer Yao and our ‘handler’ (babysitter) Eva, to both of whom we would like to send our incredible thanks. We were then whisked away to the race briefing, where Felix was surprisingly asked to give an interview broadcast live on local TV, and we subsequently had to go to the opening ceremony where Felix and Mary had a boring cameo of waving a flag (without even waving), all the while feeling the effects of jetlag. Eventually, we slept.

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On the water had an incredibly successful week. Despite expecting to come last, we realised we had the potential to do a lot better and our results kept getting better as we gained more experience, coming 3rd in two races and coming 5th out of 20 teams (7 international and 13 Chinese) overall. Off the water we had an incredible time, enjoying some of the highlights of Chinese culture, including dodgems with no speed limit, an intercontinental hotel bar with a ‘period hotline’ and a beer festival with unlimited Tsingtao, the best of Chinese beer. This was a surreal experience ending in a sudden stop on our 2 hour coach drive home during which everyone (about 40 competitors) ran out to have a wee in the bushes on the side of an empty motorway.

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Our regatta experience was shared with university teams from Oxford, Cambridge, Melbourne, Berkley and Amsterdam who provided great entertainment and kept the events, in Felix’s words, ‘lit’. We especially had fun on the last night in the Beatles themed ‘Lennon bar’ where all the competitors drunkenly contributed to a group karaoke on stage and were all given free t-shirts by the owner (a fellow sailor). The whole event was documented by seemingly hundreds of photographers, although it was difficult to work out which were official and which were just locals, and pictures and videos filled local TV stations, newspapers and internet.

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Many thanks to the Qingdao Sailing Culture Development Co. and all the other organisers, helpers and contributors for a fantastic week, as well as all teams, both international and local, involved. Special thanks to the rest of the Imperial Sailing team, it would not have been the same without you guys!

– Gabriel

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