Tomorrow, Sunday 10th August, five out of the seven Volvo Ocean Race teams who will go on to compete in the 2014-15 Volvo Ocean Race, will take to the start line of the Round Britain and Ireland Race. This will be the first time the Volvo Ocean 65 Dongfeng will line up directly against the competition.
The conditions for the 1,800 mile race that starts at 1200 BST on Sunday, 10th August race are going to be extremely tough and will be a real test to see how this Anglo-Chinese team will perform together under pressure. The Chinese sailors on board may have experienced wild, offshore conditions before but never in race mode which adds a whole other level of pressure.
Crewmember from Dongfeng Race Team - Sam Greenfield/Volvo Ocean Race
'We need to be realistic – we will not be at the same level as a team like Abu Dhabi who have eight professional sailors onboard. We have less experience but that’s not going to stop us from giving this all we’ve got.' Charles Caudrelier, skipper Dongfeng Race Team
Team Director Bruno Dubois gives some insight as to what to expect in the coming days as the fleet now head anticlockwise around Britain and Ireland with the race expected to take around seven days: 'This race is going to be tricky for two reasons. One, the weather conditions are terrible, courtesy of the remnants of Hurricane Bertha, meaning the boys will be thrown in at the deep end from the moment the race starts. The race committee has just decided this afternoon to reverse the course so the fleet sail anticlockwise around Britain to avoid the severe wind and sea conditions forecast. Conditions will be extremely uncomfortable and difficult living conditions onboard. Couple that with the fact it’s the first time they’re racing together as a team… It’s going to be a great learning curve – put it that way!'
It’s no secret that the Chinese sailors onboard Dongfeng have suffered from seasickness in the past and with the harsh conditions that lie ahead, this is just one of many things on Wolf’s mind. 'One thing I am worried about is seasickness. I worry that because we are sailing in strong winds and a rough sea state it might happen. It stops me from doing my job properly. I don’t want to eat and then I feel terrible and then I feel even worse because I haven’t eaten! This is something I worry about, not being able to perform properly in harsh conditions, I don’t want to let anyone down. I’m not nervous, I’m excited but this is at the back of my mind.'
Dongfeng Race Team crewmembers prepare for battle - © Ainhoa Sanchez / Volvo Ocean Race
'Some say there’s no margin for error,' adds Caudrelier, 'but I don’t think that’s true. I think there’s every margin for error between now and the start of the Volvo Ocean Race. It’s during the Volvo Ocean Race legs that there’s not margin for error. I would rather something go wrong now that during this race. If we have creases to iron out the idea is we will use the Round Britain and Ireland race to do it. I know we will not be the best team on the start line but I don’t mind, because my goal is that our team will be the best team in Gothenburg on the finish line of the Volvo Ocean Race.'
With the start of the Volvo Ocean Race just 56 days away Charles Caudrelier and his Chinese crew are under pressure to cram into 10 months what most of the other teams have had 10 years to practise. 'I feel we have come far in the last six months,' said Wolf. 'Building this team has been difficult because of the different cultures and I’ve felt that sometimes it has been hard to work together, especially for the western guys. But to know that tomorrow we will be racing together as a team makes me very proud. I know our team is not perfect but I think in six months we did a good job.'
At just 1,800 miles this race is seen by many as a dress rehearsal to the main event – the ‘sprint’ ahead of the ‘marathon’. Dongfeng Race Team will focus very much on their own performance whilst keeping one eye on the competition: 'We will not draw too many conclusions from this race in terms of a ‘form guide’ as we know the Volvo Ocean Race is a very, very long race that can deliver some unpredictable results over the different legs,' concluded Bruno Dubois. Volvo Ocean Race