By Jason Cruz
Northwest Asian Weekly
Chinese crew member Robert Mark’s moment to sail the ocean is finally here.
“I’ve been waiting for 3 years to step on this journey,” he explained as the Clipper Venture race continued its annual race around the world this year. The previous two years had been stalled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I’ve dreamed about the ocean since I read 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea as a child,” said the 39-year-old. The book opened his mind to adventure around the world. “I quit my job in 2018 to become a sailing instructor,” stated the former policeman. “My friends and family thought I was crazy and my family didn’t talk to me for two years.” Mark said that he’s now communicating with his family.
The Clipper Race allows people from all walks of life to become ocean racers.
Participants sign up to compete in one or multiple legs, or even the entire journey, estimated to be 11 months. It is a 40,000 nautical mile race around the world on one of 11 70-foot ocean racing yachts. The race is divided into 8 legs and between 13 and 16 individual races. The Seattle leg is the end of leg 6.
The race began in China and ends with leg 8, which goes from New York City back to China.
The Clipper Race, which was paused in 2020, returned with an official restart on March 24, 2022 in the Philippines and arrived in Seattle this past week. The race was officially postponed in March 2020 due to the global pandemic and the last 3 legs of the 8-leg races were put on pause. A quarantine was put on the crews that had stopped on the racing leg in Subic Bay, Philippines. The fleet was due to leave for Seattle later that month.
Almost two years to the day the race stopped, it returned with the destination of crossing the Pacific to Seattle. Most of the boats racing made it to the Bell Harbor Marina on Seattle’s waterfront on April 24. The Qingdao, one of the boats in the race, did not race this leg although it will start its leg next month out of San Francisco.
Mark, who is in Seattle to welcome the end of this leg, will travel to San Francisco to join the Qingdao for the next part of the race. The next leg goes through the Panama Canal and eventually makes its way to New York City.
The time on the boat is regimented as crew members have shifts and spend most of their off time either eating or asleep. Maintaining the racing yacht in the ocean requires lots of work so many of the crew stated that after their shift, they went to sleep immediately. Crew members do make a road diary of their trip and send it in to the race office.
Michael (Tang Lin) of China is looking to sail around the world by himself if this race goes well. “I look to do adventure.” He has already ridden his motorcycle from Alaska to Panama. “Now is the chance to do the same around the ocean.”
The small business owner stated that he thinks he will enjoy the journey. “If this is real, then I am going to get a boat and sail around the world,” said the 52-year old.
Cheok In Lo, from Macau, who completed his first race after crossing the Pacific and docking in Seattle, was amazed at the enormity of the ocean.
“It was like I was dreaming. It was very exciting.” He trained for four weeks in the United Kingdom to get used to the rigors of the ocean. Also, each crew member has a specific job during the race.
“The waves were huge and daunting,” said Wan Chio, who works for Clipper and serves as one of the dedicated members of the crew. She noted that some of the wind speeds reached 57 miles per hour. She recalled the need to change the sail of their vessel in the middle of the night, which required her to take the helm.
But with the strength of the ocean, there is also beauty.
“The blue color of the ocean is something that I will never forget.”
For more on the race, visit clipperroundtheworld.com.
Jason can be reached at email@example.com.