From Rhode Island to Lorient, France, for the Chinese Sailors onboard Dongfeng this will be their greatest offshore test to date and will bring skipper Charles Caudrelier one step closer to selecting his final race crew for the Volvo Ocean Race.
After weeks of preparation and training the team finally left the dock at Newport Shipyard today at 3pm local time. The air was filled with apprehension and anticipation at what lays ahead and the final hurdle for these novice Chinese offshore sailors.
In only five months Jin Hao Chen (Horace), Jiru Yang (Wolf) and Kong Chen Cheng (Kong) have sailed over 3,500 nautical miles and have endured months of tough physical training, which has brought them to this point. Although still very much in the running for the final race team, both Ying ‘Kit’ Cheng and Liu Ming (Leo) will stay ashore for this crossing and will re-join the team upon their arrival in Lorient for the official announcement of the final race team on the 26th June.
The transatlantic crossing, a re-enactment of the 2,800 nautical mile Leg 7 of the Volvo Ocean Race, will be undertaken in ‘race mode’ i.e. Caudrelier will be driving the Volvo Ocean 65 Dongfeng hard and his crew even harder. The test leg is estimated to take approximately eight days giving Dongfeng Race Team the opportunity to further test the boat and collect critical boat performance data. The first night is set to deliver relatively light conditions, however after 24 hours the crew are expecting to hit up to 40 knots of wind as a low pressure system sweeps in.
Though not the longest period of time the Chinese sailors will have spent offshore this will, undoubtedly, prove to be the most challenging. When asked if they’re apprehensive or scared, they just glance at one another and shake their heads – perhaps not wanting to voice their concerns on the eve of their departure and keep their resolve strong. Wolf says: 'I know it’s going to be hard. I knew back at the first trials that it was going to be hard but we’ve made it this far and I’m ready.
'The only thing at the back of my mind is since we took the safety survival course a few weeks ago, it’s hit me how dangerous this race is. I always thought that if you fell in the water there was hope for survival, and maybe in flat seas and daylight but realistically the chances of survival rapidly diminish in strong winds and high seas with minimum visibility. We did a man overboard manoeuvre in Sanya in flat seas and daylight and within seconds the guy had disappeared from view. It just makes you ask yourself, before you embark on a journey like this one, are you good enough? Can you survive onboard? Will you survive onboard? But am I scared? No.'
These sailors have shown ultimate strength and displayed true determination to take part and represent China in one of the greatest offshore sailing races of all time - the Volvo Ocean Race starting from Alicante, Spain in October 2014. Dongfeng Race Team website Volvo Ocean Race