It has been nearly five months since Charles Caudrelier received a phone call from Bruno Dubois asking him to become skipper of Dongfeng Race Team. Since then Charles has covered 10,000 nautical miles with the team in training. He has become teacher and mentor to the Chinese sailors who hope to become part of his final race crew.
Team Principal, Dubois, had to choose a world-class skipper who would embrace the nature of the Dongfeng Race Team campaign and accept the challenges and responsibilities that come with such a role. This campaign was born with two key missions at it’s core; to bring competitive offshore sailing to China and to become the first Volvo Ocean Race campaign in history to sail the world with multiple Chinese sailors onboard. The long term sporting mission of this team is to build towards a 100% Chinese campaign in the future editions of the race. This is not just your average Volvo Ocean Race campaign… Dongfeng Race Team is bringing something different to the table.
The team are in the last 24 hours of their first transatlantic crossing and the final training hurdle for the Chinese sailors. Charles Caudrelier sent this email today:
'For the past 48 hours we hit a very bad sea state and we’ve been pushing the boat like madmen since. We’ve been full on with 20-30 knots of wind, it’s been relentless – no break! The deck has been full of water and we’ve been soaked through, it’s impossible to get dry!
Dongfeng Race Team - Dongfeng Race Team
'I think it’s been great for the Chinese guys, going from offshore sailing in the warm Pacific to the cold Atlantic. You were right, this has been a real test for them. I’ve been able to see their progress, monitor their behaviour and strength (both mentally and physically). Honestly, I wasn’t sure what the outcome of this would be but I’m so proud of them. Today, for me, I have two professional offshore sailors onboard: Wolf and Horace. They are always there when we need them, they don’t suffer from seasickness and I can trust them onboard. Wolf and Thomas [Rouxell] have become a real pair when on watch together, it’s quite funny to see. Wolf has also learnt a lot in a short space of time from Martin [Strömberg] who is happily passing on his experience!
'Horace is on watch with me and he has been seriously impressive in the tough conditions, he’s just taken it [being a bowman] on like a true Volvo Ocean Race bowman. He can also helm in tough conditions – in my opinion he’s the best Chinese driver I’ve ever met.
Skipper Charles Caudrelier at the helm of Dongfeng - Dongfeng Race Team
'Kong has the mentality of a true offshore sailor. He is courageous and strong; he has suffered from a small bout of seasickness but hasn’t complained once and is over it now. He always wants to help and is constantly asking questions, his English (and French!) has improved massively. Kong lacks the experience that the others had in the Pacific, and as we expected the leap from inshore Finn dinghy sailing to offshore sailing in the Atlantic is massive. But I know we could have a Volvo Ocean Race sailor in the making with a little more training.
PS: Another scare this morning when Pascal [Bidegorry] was helming with Kong, Martin and Eric [Peron] on deck. Apparently Kong saw a whale and shouted for the others who told me it was less than five metres away from the boat. Luckily Kong had learnt the English for ‘whale’ when we missed the first one! Anyway, Pascal managed to avoid it but according to Martin its tail almost caught the boat. Don’t even want to think about what could have happened.'
Estimated time of arrival for Dongfeng in Lorient, France, is approximately 1200 CET. The crew are on course to have sailed 2,800nm across the Atlantic having left Newport, USA on Friday, 30th May, collecting a bank of memories that will remain for a long time, especially for the rookie Chinese sailors. Dongfeng Race Team website