It was on 22 December 2019 when UIC graduate, Wu Kefu, set sail on his 22-day journey from Fremantle Harbour in Western Australia aboard the yacht called "Zhuhai".

He was participating in the 2019-2020 Clipper Round the World Yacht Race as one of the 16 crew members. As the youngest crew member, Kefu was very excited sailing outside of China for the first time.

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Wu Kefu is working on the deck

Wu Kefu graduated from UIC's Computer Science and Technology Programme (CST) in 2018. He received offers from The Australian National University, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology and Syracuse University in the US.

Instead of pursuing his Master's degree right away, he chose to have a gap year and fulfil his dreams. One of them was to attend the 2019-2020 Clipper Round the World Yacht Race, known as one of the biggest challenges of the natural world and a true test of endurance.

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Kefu joined the yacht "Zhuhai" in leg 4, during this 4,000-mile (6,500km) leg they sail from West Australia to East Australia, and the temperatures ranged between 5°C to 30°C. Besides "Zhuhai", there were two other yachts named after Chinese cities, which were "Qingdao" and "Sanya".

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Yacht "Zhuhai"

In December 2018, when Kefu knew about the recruitment for the Yacht "Zhuhai", as a fan of water sports, he applied with excitement. After going through some tests and pieces of training in the following four months, he was ready for the challenge.

Before he set out, Wu Kefu wrote in his diary: "The greatest joy in life is challenging the unknown, and the storms will make life so much more exciting".

Kefu and the other 15 crew members from different countries along with "Zhuhai" started their adventure on 22 December 2019. The first challenge for Kefu was seasickness. Nick Leggatt, the skipper of "Zhuhai" at the time told Kefu with humour: "There are three phases in seasick. At first, you think you will die; then you are worried that you might die; eventually, you are concerned that you won't die".

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"Zhuhai" encountered a storm 

After overcoming seasickness, Kefu was dedicated to doing his jobs. The crew members were divided into three groups, and they can only get less than six hours of sleep per day because they were required to take different shifts. One needs strong willpower and resilience to adapt to difficult situations.

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Wu Kefu is maintaining the wind indicator and the signal lights on the mast

In addition to the demanding tasks, the dense smoke produced by serious bush fires in Australia also caused troubles for the crew. After they escaped the smoke, they then got stuck in a wind tunnel for three days.

When Kefu was awake for the night shifts, even though it's dark and cold, he did enjoy gazing up into the starry sky, or he would read The Three-Body Problem by Liu Cixin when he had time.

Around 22 days later, "Zhuhai" reached the destination of leg 4, and Kefu also finished his first sailing on a foreign sea.

He still pays close attention to the yacht's journey while hoping for a good rank. Wu Kefu explains that other than racing, "Zhuhai" also undertook other responsibilities as the crew members helped to monitor the health of marine life by putting devices into the sea at certain locations.

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Crew members of "Zhuhai"

Wu Kefu started to do water sports during his third summer vacation at UIC. He passed exams and got the first-class Referee Qualification Certificate of the Chinese Yachting Association.

He also became the leader of UIC's Dragon Boat team during Year 4 and lead the team to participate in the 2018 Macao International Dragon Boat Races.

In 2019, he participated in a Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area Yacht Race where he was ranked first.

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 Wu Kefu (left of the second row) and UIC Dragon Boat team during the 2018 Macao International Dragon Boat Races

"UIC's liberal arts education encouraged us to be interdisciplinary and to go on a self-discovery journey. Whole Person Education allowed me to develop several hobbies and interests," said Wu Kefu.

Other than his intriguing experience racing on the sea, Wu Kefu also interned at Microsoft's Beijing headquarter for three months.

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Wu Kefu and his father sharing Kefu's university life at the UIC Open Day in 2018

After his graduation, he returned to UIC as a research assistant for six months and assisted CST's Programme Director Prof Su Weifeng to work on an intelligent street lighting system.

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Wu Kefu and Prof Su Weifeng

Wu Kefu is currently pursuing postgraduate studies at Syracuse University. In the future, he wants to use his best endeavours to improve his yachting skills as well as to earn a Master's Degree. He plans to do another internship during his free time to acquire additional experience in his field.

Reporter: Covee Wang
Editors: Samuel Burgess, Lauren Richardson, Deen He
(from MPRO)