As the wind dropped last night, the team onboard Dongfeng had another ‘near miss’ experience which could have had dire consequences. With regular reports from the boat about the pain and pleasures of offshore sailing, today’s update is proof of just how dangerous crossing the busy North Atlantic ocean can be.
It is often said that when competing in the Volvo Ocean Race you need to have eyes in the back of your head 24/7, and last night this was certainly true for Dongfeng’s Skipper, Charles Caudrelier. Not only is Charles responsible for the multi-million Euro racing yacht, the new Volvo Ocean 65, but as skipper he is also responsible for his crew. Their safety is at the forefront of everything he does, especially whilst crossing the Atlantic with four relatively inexperienced crew on board.
Dongfeng Race Team
'Yesterday we were afraid because there was a big cargo ship heading straight for us [in the dark],' reported Caudrelier.
'I think the guy [Watchkeeper on the cargo ship] must have been sleeping or something because he wasn’t paying attention. I tried calling and calling but there was no answer. We were sitting in the ocean with barely any wind and only seven knots (12kph) of speed so could not easily manoeuvre, and this huge ship was coming at us at about 20 knots (37kph). Luckily he passed us at about 100m away but I was so angry with him! I called and called but no answer – it was not a Maersk ship so that’s ok!'
For onboard reporter Allan Lan, this was another first time experience: 'Charles’ frustration of not being able to contact the vessel was apparent to the whole team. He was speaking rapidly in French and repeatedly trying to call. We were lucky that it passed us at 100m which sounds a lot but in the middle of the ocean, with a giant cargo ship bearing down on you, I promise you it’s not.'
The team were quickly over the incident and the focus returned to sailing. There is a big low pressure weather system ahead of Dongfeng with winds forecasted at up to 45 knots (83kph). However, the team will avoid getting too close to the centre of the low where the strongest wind is: 'We are training not racing,' explained Charles. 'It is important not to damage the boat at this point, we still expect to hit some hard winds but hopefully not as much as 45 knots and we expect waves of about four metres.' Dongfeng Race Team website