by Amy Monkman
The first round of selection trials for Dongfeng team for the upcoming Volvo Ocean Race got underway promptly at 0800 hours Monday morning at the team’s Official Training Facility at Serenity Marina in Sanya, China.
Candidates take part in various mental and physical activities hoping to pass the selection trials and become part of Dongfeng Race Team.
With a brief introduction from Dongfeng Race Team Director, Bruno Dubois, the hopeful 20 candidates were separated into four groups and the specialist selection trials management team swiftly took over from there. 'The purpose of the Selection Trials is to identify the athletes who can best adapt to the life as an offshore racer and who, importantly, show the innate ability to work effectively inside a team and intuitively will be able to learn the skills needed over the coming months ahead of the start of the Volvo Ocean Race next October,' explained Dubois.
All participants were handed over to Nick Cherry (Figaro solo sailor, four times National Match Race champion and ultra-marathon runner) for their initial physical warm up – an 800m run followed by a 2.2km race. 'There was a noticeable split between the candidates at the front and the ones at the back,' explains selector Charles Darbyshire, 'but everyone made it round the course.'
Immediately after the warm up the groups were taken to the waterfront where half the candidates were asked to demonstrate their sailing skills in Serenity Marina’s J80’s whilst the other half were thrown (literally!) into the sea for a ‘Water Confident Test’. Then came the team building tasks which included passing fellow team members through small holes in a ‘spiders web’ before performing a round of Chinese Whispers, whereby the team had to reproduce a Lego model with set restrictions. 'Team building is important and everybody needs to support each other. There’s is a skipper on the boat but there is also a team on the boat,' commented Wu Yi, ex-Finn sailor of Fujian provincial team.
'These tests may sound strange on paper but each is specifically designed for a purpose and this one required plenty of coordination and co-operation between the team, and a huge amount of patience. The Volvo Ocean Race is a race that will be won with determination and discipline,' commented Dubois.
There’s nothing like being soaking wet, hungry and being asked to perform the dreaded beep test. The beep test is one of the most commonly performed fitness tests in sport which demands running up and down a 20m course, keeping in time with a series of beeps that increase significantly the pace as time goes on. By now it was nightfall and the exhausted candidates then began a two-hour fitness assessment, including a rowing test and physical strength exercises. These tests establish a base level of fitness that will enable specific programmes to be tailored to their needs if the candidate is successful.
After a brief break for the sailors to grab some (freeze dried) food, it was another team effort to construct a 30-meter bamboo ‘mast’ and taking on some ‘frustration’ tasks in the early hours of the morning. After that it was back in the water to test their self-constructed rafts before a final 20m beep test that concluded the exhausting 36-hour selection trials. By now the candidates were beginning to understand what lies ahead if they get selected into the training programme. And 36-hours is just ‘a drop in the ocean’ as far as the 40,000 nautical mile Volvo Ocean Race is concerned!
'We’ve seen some good performances,' said Chinese selector and sailor Guo Chuan. 'Our Chinese candidates demonstrated a very logical approach to problem solving and genuinely work effectively as a team whatever the task, in most cases voluntarily which is great to see in action. There are guys here that can sail really well, our challenge is to get them to a level where they can compete competitively on the Volvo Ocean 65 Dongfeng,' concluded Chuan.
The selection trial judges now have to make the decision on which candidates to invite to join the training programme starting in January. The intention is to have a pool of Chinese athletes that will be incorporated into the training programme before selecting an Elite Squad at the end of March. Further selection trials will be held in January as the search for Dongfeng Race Team’s Chinese crew continues.
Volvo Ocean Race
Dongfeng Team website