In the Volvo Ocean Race, the stopovers are more than just a time of respite for weary sailors, they are also a meeting point for competitors of the race's 38 year history.
Among the thousands of race fans lining the docks in Abu Dhabi to wave goodbye to the fleet was Chinese sailor Guo Chuan, media crew member for 2008-09 Irish-Chinese entry Green Dragon. The 46-year-old knows better than most the challenges lying in wait for the sailors in the 2011-12 edition, having documented life on board Ian Walker’s first Volvo Ocean Race entry.
'It’s fantastic to come back and feel the race atmosphere again,' said 46-year-old Chuan, the first Chinese person to compete in the Volvo Ocean Race. 'I already met quite a lot of my old friends and feel really excited.'
Chuan said his time on Green Dragon changed his view on life, describing the experience as ‘truly rewarding’.
'Working with a team of top professional sailors for nine months is truly a rewarding experience,' he said. 'What seems to me to be another great takeaway is the change of my attitude to life and family. What makes a sailor go a long way is a determined mind as well as the strong emotional support from his family.'
After the last race finished in St. Petersburg in 2009, Chuan returned to his hometown Qingdao and established his family, with his first child to be born the end of this month.
But despite his impending parental duties, Chuan has no plans to put a hold on his offshore adventures. An experienced yachtsman in his own right, the last three years have seen him successfully complete the Tour de France à la Voile and the Mini Transat, a solo transatlantic yacht race. Now he is planning something bigger: a single-handed non-stop round the world sailing challenge on a 40-feet boat in November.
'So far no one has finished the challenge in this category,' Chuan added. 'I think my chance of completion will be 70 per cent.'
Chuan has been closely following the Volvo Ocean Race since it kicked off last November in Alicante, paying particular attention to the ups and downs of Chinese Team Sanya.
'Leg 3 is mainly about sailing in the low-latitude area,' he said. 'So the unsettled and constantly changing weather conditions will disrupt the fleet progression and give each team a lot of opportunities to take the lead.
'We always say in Chinese that ‘good luck only comes after adversity’, so I think it’s Team Sanya’s turn to have some good fortune.'
Volvo Ocean Race website