SPORT - Emotional welcome for Cork skipper as Qingdao arrives in port


Batam, Indonesia, January 20: A huge crowd gathered on the pontoon, cheering and clapping as Qingdao

, flying a string of Irish tricolours as well as their huge Chinese battle flag, arrived at Nongsa Point Marina this morning. On board was
Cork skipper Richie Fearon whose crew were there to greet him following the incident in which their yacht hit a submerged reef in the Java Sea five days ago. Richie stayed with Qingdao to help with the salvage operation while his crew were taken by California and Team Finland to join the rest of the fleet in the marina on Batam, Indonesia.

As he stepped ashore, each of them enveloped in him in a huge hug before they headed off for some quiet time together to reflect on the events of the last week.

Qingdao stayed with Cork for several days, recovering what they could of the crew’s possessions, and skipper, Chris Stanmore-Major, taking over the role of on-scene commander from Team Finland skipper, Rob McInally.

As the Qindgao crew rushed to jump fully clothed into the pool, Stanmore-Major praised his entire team, saying, “As soon as I told the crew that Cork had a problem, their instant thought and desire was to help in any way they could.

“What we could do was get onto the land to get their kit back and try and retrieve anything from the boat that meant anything to them. So we spent a couple of days doing that and the guys have worked their hearts out. It’s been difficult work, going backwards and forwards in and out of the surf with dinghy loads of personal kit. Someone’s bag may weigh five kilos, but put five litres of water in it and it’s heavy.

“They’ve just excelled themselves on every level. You’ve got people who are primary school teachers and work as tech analysts suddenly becoming salvage experts — it was quite a change around. It’s been the very spirit of the race which is to get out there, challenge yourself and do something different,” he said.

For everyone involved with the Clipper Race the loss of Cork has been felt very keenly and for the crew of Qingdao, sailing away was a painful moment.

“As we left on the last night we were very sad that we couldn’t do more to help Cork the vessel, but we knew we’d helped Cork the crew,” said Stanmore-Major.

“We have had a great reception here and I think the guys feel they’ve done everything they can, so we’re very proud of what we’ve done and very sad about what’s happened to Cork.

“I really felt every boat length as we left her. There came a point when we were as far away from Cork as we’d ever been and another point when Cork was as far away from the fleet as she’s ever been and that was pretty hard. But hopefully, Cork the crew and the spirit of Cork is not gone and we can get her back on the racetrack,” he said.

The fleet is due to arrive in Kinsale and Cork, Ireland, in July for an eight-day event, plans for which are being finalised.

This afternoon Edinburgh Inspiring Capital will join the other eight boats at Nongsa Point Marina, the rallying point ahead of their ceremonial arrival at Marina at Keppel Bay on Saturday. The marina, owned by Uniquely Singapore sponsor, Keppel Corporation, is at the heart of Singapore’s vibrant southern waterfront development.

Race 5 from Geraldton, WA, to Singapore began on January 3 and the course has delivered some of the most challenging conditions to date for the crews, all of whom have put their normal lives on hold to take part in Clipper 09-10, whether for a single leg, or for the whole of the ten-month, 35,000-mile race.

Cape Breton Island took Race 5 line honours, finishing at 0914 local time (0214 GMT) on Sunday, January 17. Spirit of Australia finished just 15 minutes later and Jamaica Lightning Bolt crossed the finish line third.

Qingdao, California, Team Finland and Edinburgh Inspiring Capital were involved in the Cork operation as well as Uniquely Singapore and Hull & Humber, who stood by to offer assistance if required.

As a number of teams suspended racing during the incident the final results will be subject to ratification once all the skippers’ declarations have been received by the Race Committee before being confirmed. The result is expected to be announced later today.

The fleet will arrive at Marina at Keppel Bay at 10am on Saturday, January 23.