Robin Knox-Johnston, founder of the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race, is confident China will one day have a skipper in the race.
Since being launched in 1996 as the largest amateur yacht race in the world, Johnston said the race has helped more than 5,000 people realize their sailing dreams - and 40 percent of them had no previous racing experience.
"I hope the number rises to 10,000 over the next 10 years," said Knox-Johnston as the 11 yachts participating in the Asia-Pacific leg of this year's race, which stopped over in Sanya, neared the finish in Qingdao, Shandong province.
"Clipper crew members learn how to sail in a big ocean, develop their confidence and foster strong characters when they confront an environment of raw nature during the race."
Knox-Johnston, the first person to complete a solo nonstop circumnavigation of the globe, is pleased to see an increasing number of Chinese signing up for race crews and said some have shown the potential to be a skipper.
"But before they are ready to become a skipper, they firstly need to work hard, receive strict training and accumulate rich board experience," Knox-Johnston said.
He added that Clipper's close cooperation with Qingdao has helped popularize sailing in China.
Since 2005-06, the Qingdao government has sponsored a yacht named after the city and it has been entered in seven consecutive races.
The government has been in cooperation with the race committee to develop a program of "ambassador crew members", which is designed to both increase sailing participation and knowledge in Qingdao and to promote the city around the world.
"To date, a total of 48 people have Clipper experience under the program," according to Knox-Johnston.
Qingdao is also a crucial stopover for all Clipper crew members.
Knox-Johnston has witnessed the development of yacht facilities and equipment in the coastal city over the past 14 years. The race has also boosted boat manufacturing industries in Qingdao.
According to Ji Gaoshang, director of Qingdao Sports Bureau, since the 2013-14 Clipper race, all yachts have been renewed as 70-foot craft and are manufactured by Qingdao Mazarin Yacht Co Ltd.
"The journey of these boats is equal to circumnavigating the planet two-and-a-half times, a reflection of Qingdao's manufacturing capabilities in high-end boats," Ji added.
Boats are set to cross the finish line in Qingdao from Thursday to Saturday.