Hometown hero Black to make foiling debut in Qingdao
He might only be 23 years old but Chinese sailor Liu Xue has already accomplished more than most. His impressive CV boasts a lap of the planet with Volvo Ocean Race fan favourites Dongfeng Race Team, America’s Cup experience with China Team and numerous victories at yachting regattas in his home country. But Liu – best known by his nickname Black – is now set to take his sailing to another level when he competes in the Extreme Sailing Series on the new cutting edge GC32 foiling catamarans.
Black is an integral part of One, the first Chinese team ever to enter a campaign for an entire season of the Extreme Sailing Series. And to make his first time ‘flying’ all the more special it will take place on waters of his home city Qingdao, the venue for Act 2 of the Series.“I feel very proud to be here,” Black said. “I’m Chinese, Qingdao is my home town, and the Extreme Sailing Series is a big event. “The level of sailing is very high and I am hoping to learn a lot. I’m really excited and happy to be here.”
Black is at the forefront of a growing interest in high-level sailing in China that he hopes could one day result in a team made up solely of Chinese sailors competing on the Extreme Sailing Series. “To represent China in the Extreme Sailing Series is a big step,” he said. “Sailing in China is just starting to become popular and if I can do the Extreme Sailing Series on the GC32s with these amazing sailors I can learn a lot and in turn teach others. “Someday we could even enter our own Chinese team on the Extreme Sailing Series.”
With the move to the new foiling GC32 this season, Black has had his work cut out adapting the skills he learned on the Volvo Ocean Race, a 40,000-mile offshore race around the planet, to the super-quick pace of the Extreme Sailing Series’ inshore stadium racing.
It’s a challenge the young sailor is relishing though, driven by the excitement and exhilaration of being onboard a 32ft boat as it blasts along at up to 40 knots.
“Offshore the emphasis was on safety first - we wanted to be fast but we couldn’t push too much,” Black explained. “By comparison the Extreme Sailing Series is very fast and manoeuvres are very quick. Because we’re sailing inshore on the GC32s we need everything to be as quick as possible.
“Sailing on a GC32 is incredible. When you watch the boats flying whether from on the water or in a video you think they look cool.
“But when you’re actually onboard there’s a huge difference – the spray is incredible, you have to wear sunglasses to stop water going in your eyes. “I have sailed on quick boats before but foiling has introduced me to a completely new definition of speed.
Under the expert tuition of One skipper Taylor Canfield, Black is determined to push himself to the limit in front of home crowds. “In any race you have pressure because everyone is supporting you and you want to do well, but to race these boats in your hometown is very special,” he said. “I have a lot of pride. I just need to learn everything I can from my team and try to keep improving every day.”