Chinese woman sailor circumnavigates globe, helps spread Chinese culture

Updated: Dec 6, 2021 People's Daily Online Print
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In 2020, Xiao Shuyao, a 32-year-old Chinese sailor, finished a circumnavigation of the globe, which took her three and a half years, marking it the first time a Chinese completed a round-the-world voyage with a catamaran sailboat.

Xiao set sail with her husband Xu Jingkun from Turkey in June 2017 and completed the voyage in November 2020 after traveling through the Mediterranean Sea, the Atlantic Ocean, and the Caribbean Sea, passing through the Panama Canal, then crossing the Pacific Ocean and the Indian Ocean, and finally rounding the Cape of Good Hope.

Xiao set a Chinese record of traveling 34,000 nautical miles, covering more than 40 countries across the globe with her catamaran.

There were various risks and difficulties encountered during the voyage. Xiao recalled that she vomited at the beginning of the expedition through the Atlantic Ocean, suffering from a serious bout of seasickness. "I felt like I came back to life again when we arrived at a port after 18 days of sailing," she said.

Xiao was chased by pirates with guns for more than 30 nautical miles in waters off of Colombia, South America, and encountered extreme weather with hailstones as big as fists while in the Indian Ocean.

Despite such marvelous experiences and adventures, Xiao said the fascination of sailing lies in accomplishing something that looked virtually impossible at first.

Meanwhile, Xiao revealed that they went on land tours during stopovers. They held exchange activities with embassies and overseas Chinese communities in countries where they stayed, shared stories about their trips and adventures, and introduced China's unique sailing culture.

They also invited sailors from various countries and locals to drink Chinese tea and try Chinese cuisine on their catamaran. "In this way, we also spread traditional Chinese culture. Many of them learned about China through our stories, so we hoped to show the friendliness and kindness of Chinese people," Xiao said.

Xiao's connections with sailing dates back to 2010, when she ran a beach bar in Sanya, a coastal city in south China's Hainan Province. Sandwiched between two yachting clubs, her bar often received many sailors, who often shared their own adventure stories. Xiao wrote articles about their stories and published them in a magazine.

Due to this early experience, Xiao made friends with various skippers and gradually participated in yacht races.

In 2014, Xiao closed her bar and went with her husband to take part in a solo transatlantic yacht race that started in Brittany, France. During that period, Xiao had the opportunity to meet with various professional offshore sailors. She then developed a dream of circumnavigating the globe for the first time in her life after mastering many of the specialized skills.

Now, Xiao's team is preparing for a non-stop solo circumnavigation of the globe. "We hope to tell China's stories through sailing and show a different image about young Chinese people to the world," Xiao said.

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