Mind over matter for the Chinese sailors onboard Dongfeng

Chinese sailor Jin Hao Chen 'Horace' is caught on camera looking very pensive.
Dongfeng Race Team
More than 2,000 miles away from land, reality is dawning on Chinese sailors Horace, Wolf and Kong of what life could be like for the next 15 months if they are selected as part of the final race crew…

Update halfway across the Atlantic – ‘like sleeping on the back of a racehorse at full speed’

'Life on board has taken some getting used to,' reports Allan Lan, currently trialling for the Onboard Reporter job. 'I agree with Horace, we are here in this ‘crazy game’ to challenge our mental and physical limitations, it’s what the race was designed for and it’s what draws (crazy) people to it.

We had another ‘typical’ fourth night, sleepless once more in 25 knots of wind with the boat crashing through the waves at what feels like 100kph. It makes the bunks so uncomfortable (not that they were comfortable to start with, this race isn’t about comfort!). It’s like sleeping on the back of a racehorse at full speed or a hard trampoline. Your body is mercilessly thrown up in the air and crashes down less than a second later onto the hard bunk. It is relentless, all night long.

Podium: Andre Budzien, Bo Petersen (Charlie Cumbley was headed to another regatta already)
Tom Lonsdale


'Heavy raindrops are deafening against the deck and the noise from the bow hurling through the waves is constant. Despite my headphones and loud music, I can still hear it louder than ever. As acting onboard reporter I can’t sail, I can’t help the guys move the sails. All I can do is manage the food and clean the boat to help. Every now and again someone on deck will shout really loudly and instantly my heart rate will increase. Is something wrong? Has something happened? Of course, they’re just changing sails and it’s not a big deal but at night you constantly worry because you can’t see what’s going on. I’m tired all the time and I’m not even doing the physical work like changing sails. Some of the guys are so tired they fall asleep before they’ve even taken off their wet-weather gear!'

2015 International OK Dinghy World Championship
Tom Lonsdale


It has been an open struggle so far for the Chinese sailors adapting to life on board the Volvo Ocean 65 Dongfeng – the transition from inshore sailing to offshore was never going to be easy. However, over the course of this transatlantic crossing it has become obvious for both the Chinese sailors themselves and skipper Charles Caudrelier that their hard work and dedication are paying off. As they reach the halfway point of the transatlantic crossing, the team are growing in confidence every day with each other.

French sailors Thomas Rouxell and Pascal Bidegorry onboard Dongfeng during the team's transatlantic
Dongfeng Race Team


Jiru Yang ‘Wolf’ has a thirst for life at sea and now can’t imagine his life any other way: 'I feel more at ease on board and I have learnt so much without realising it, the training in the Pacific has definitely prepared us. It taught us how to live on board so when we stepped on Dongfeng for this transat, we were ready to take on the Atlantic; we weren’t scared – we were ready. Even now, five days in, I feel ready for anything. It’s an amazing feeling. We are all awaiting Charles’ final crew decision but this is the path I have chosen and I want to compete in the Volvo Ocean Race more than ever. I have no doubts, absolutely no doubts. It’s a question of mind over matter and the Chinese are very good at that!'

The extreme discomforts of life at sea, inevitably turn the crew to thinking about what they miss most and, not surprisingly, food is top of the list… 'Our Chinese crew s are struggling with the lack of Chinese-style freeze dried food!' added Allan. 'We don’t even know if this exists? They’re trying really hard to get used to it but western food is hard for them to swallow, especially pasta! It feels like we’re in a ‘how much freeze dried can you eat’ competition!

French Sailor Pascal Bidegorry onboard Dongfeng during the team's transatlantic
Dongfeng Race Team


We are going to put in an official request to our nutritionist! Kong misses his hometown’s ‘Lu E’ – which is a specially treated goose meat – and Horace desperately misses his hometown’s beef noodle with hot soup. But what about the Wolf man? Wolf is good – he misses his home but he’s not too bothered about the food, he drinks lots of water and gets on with it. The energy bar is very popular all round! I need to stop talking about this now as I am craving my Mum’s homemade duck…'

Some respite ahead, as light to moderate winds are forecast for the next eight hours – less bouncing around in the bunk, but the food will still taste the same.

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