2019 International Top University Regatta - Qingdao, China
In late August, Mackenzie Berwick, Josie Ruggerri, Luc LaMontague, Gina Canzona, and Preston Weber traveled to Qingdao, China to compete in the 3rd Annual International Top University Regatta. Qingdao was the host venue for sailing component of the 2008 Beijing Olympics. The city has maintained its open and international atmosphere in the years after the event by hosting festivals and regattas such as this one.
The regatta organizer, Elaine, met us at the airport with our team volunteer, Drake. We checked into our hotel and got our first taste of Qingdao’s authentic cuisine. We spent the next two days exploring Qingdao and adjusting to the time change. We visited a traditional tea garden and did some sightseeing before registration began.
After registering, we prepared for the opening ceremony. After a short bus ride, we arrived at the Qingdao Olympic Sailing Center and lined up with our competitors as the parade began. We were led through crowds of spectators to a stage set up near the water. The opening ceremonies featured speeches, performances, and lots of photo opportunities.
As we prepared for racing the next day, we were informed that a tropical storm was forming just outside the Yellow Sea. With Mackenzie at the helm, Josie on the mainsheet and Gina, Luc and Preston working the spinnaker, we were excited to try the daunting new J80. The race committee pushed up our start time up to try to fit as many races as possible before the storm made landfall. The wind held at 10-12 knots with gusts of 14 knots with big swells (which caused some seasickness). We left the dock and practiced our maneuvers and spinnaker work. With a pretty green crew, we were anxious to begin racing. Our first race was challenging but we managed to hold our position and finish strong. Right before the second race, the wind picked up to gusts of 16-18 knots. In the heavier wind, the stakes were high and unfortunately a small mistake on our douse forced us to retire from our second race. The increase in wind signaled the nearing of the typhoon. Soon after, the race committee called off racing for the day.
We spent the next two days seeking out indoor activities and socializing with other teams as we waited for Typhoon Lekima to pass. While we would have rather been racing, it was a great opportunity to make friends and create relationships with our competitors.
On the fourth day of the regatta, the race committee announced that we would try to complete the remaining races. The wind was inconsistent after the storm but it held at about 8-10 knots. We began our day with a strong finish in our first race and followed with another in our second. After a short postponement, we raced our third race in a building sea breeze from the southeast. With a competitive mindset (and energy pent up from the storm), we sailed ourselves into an 8th place finish, climbing 4 places in one day. After racing, we attended the closing ceremony where we received trophies and commemorative plates.
On the last day of the event, we drove about 2 hours inland to compete in dragon boat racing as part of the International Top University Regatta Cultural Exchange in conjunction with our regatta. We ended the day with a team dinner with all of the teams. Dinner was served on a rooftop deck with a view of the whole city and the Laoshan mountains behind us. While it was hard to say goodbye to our gracious hosts and our newfound friends, we are excited to return in the coming years for this event.
We would like to thank Cal Sports Clubs for their logistic support and its director Katie Fletcher for her dedication in helping us make this happen. We also would like to acknowledge the generosity of the Chinese government and its people for being so welcoming.