China Team will arrive in Qingdao fresh from competing in the America's Cup World Series, Naples. Kiwi Phil Robertson, whose match racing team Waka Racing finished eighth in the 2011 World Match Racing Tour, will lead the team, and at just 25 years old, Robertson is the youngest competing skipper. Despite having never sailed an Extreme 40 before, the young skipper is confident China Team can hold their own against the more experienced Extreme 40 teams.
"Qingdao is a big event for China Team," said Robertson. "It's a great opportunity to showcase to our local crowd that we can match it with the best in the world. We have a very tight schedule getting from the AC World Series to Qingdao, but will put up a good fight. We are looking forward to some home support from the people of Qingdao."
Joining Robertson will be fellow New Zealander and Waka Racing teammate, Garth Ellingham on mainsail. Nick Catley, an experienced skiff sailor brings the Kiwi contingent up to three as the team bowman, while aspiring Chinese sailing star Kit Cheng will take on the role of trimmer. Cheng is looking forward to sailing on his home waters. "I am really excited to be part of China Team and representing China," Cheng said. "One of the things that we need to improve on as a team is more consistency and sailing in the Extreme Sailing Series, and especially in China, is the perfect opportunity for us to gain more experience in sailing together and improving our teamwork. I, for one, need to sail more and I intend to learn all that I can during these races and also giving back as much as I can as well."
Cheng is no stranger to high performance sailing, having spent the last 14 years competing at an international level in the Olympic 420 class and 49er dinghies, as well as keelboats, before recently making his multihull debut on the China Team AC45 in August 2011.
Joining the team in the fifth position is renowned Chinese female Olympic sailor, Xiaqun Song. Song will truly be at home on the waters in Qingdao, the city in which she grew-up, and where she finished eighth in the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games in the Yngling class.
In 2011, Qingdao, known as China's 'City of Sailing' tested the sailors to the extreme, resulting in four capsizes, the highest number of capsizes ever witnessed in a single day, a major collision and one broken mast. It was the Italian team, Luna Rossa who stayed out of trouble to win the action-packed event, before ultimately going on to claim the 2011 Series title in Singapore last December.
Luna Rossa's achievements in the Extreme Sailing Series were officially recognised last month in Rome where the team, who are now focused on the America's Cup, were awarded boat of the year in what was the 20th edition of Il Velista del Anno; an awards ceremony that rewards the best Italian sailing talent, boats designers and boats. Click here to take a look back at 2011, when Qingdao pushed the sailors to the extreme.
Don't miss CNN Mainsail this month as double Olympic gold medalist and CNN Mainsail presenter Shirley Robertson goes behind the scenes at the first Act of the 2012 Extreme Sailing Series in Muscat, Oman which was won by 'newbie' skipper Morgan Larson on Oman Air. Robertson spent time with some of multihull sailings key players, including Alinghi skipper and America's Cup veteran Ernesto Bertarelli, Jules Verne record holder and skipper of ZouLou, Loick Peyron and former British Olympian Leigh McMillan who has rediscovered multihull sailing as skipper of The Wave, Muscat. All broadcast times are UTC.
Thursday 12 April: 09:30 & 16:30
Saturday 14 April: 07:30 & 21:00
Sunday 15 April: 16:30
Saturday 5 May: 16:30 & 21:00
Sunday 6 May: 07:30