Just 24 hours into the transatlantic crossing, the Dongfeng Race Team are settling into their 24/7 routine on board the Volvo Ocean 65 Dongfeng. A departure in light winds, Dongfeng is now sailing at around 20 knots of boat speed.
Dongfeng Race Team crew 24 hours in to their transatlantic
The routing predicts an eight-day crossing for the 2,800nm passage with some stronger downwind conditions further down the track, and like greyhound racers skipper Charles Caudrelier can’t resist a sneaky peek at potential record opportunities! 'If we are optimistic, it will take eight days – the current routing is saying eight days which is a fast transatlantic so we can have some good testing in downwind and reaching. Normally when you cross the Atlantic in the north you expect to have some good downwind and maybe we can beat the record for the boat we have [Volvo Ocean 65] and we can try to fight for the 24-hour record…why not?'
The routing is initially taking them on a southerly course and into some strong breeze before they can start heading on a more north-easterly route but, importantly, leaving the ice pack region to port.
Having sailed over 4,500 miles already on their first offshore foray from Sanya in March, ultimately, this crossing is about testing the boat further, training the Chinese crew – Horace and Wolf– more on the rigours of offshore sailing and trialing two new potential crew: 'The transatlantic is a test but also training for all the crew; we have new sailors on board which is Kong and French sailor, Eric Peron and we’re sailing with them for the first time and its important as they could be the last sailors to join the team,' said Charles.
With a multi-lingual crew of mixed abilities – from professional Western sailors to novice Chinese offshore sailors – the biggest concern is communication: 'The communication is a key point – we have three different languages on board but we all speak English, although some of the Chinese crew do not speak very well yet, so it’s not easy. But that is the goal of the training to improve always the communication so we work every day on that but everyone is motivated.'
Also facing a major challenge is Yilun Lan (Allan) who is trialling for the Onboard Reporter role for Dongfeng Race Team. Allan has been involved in the New Zealand Marine industry for almost 11 years and has left his day-to-day job onboard the legendary Whitbread entry Steinlager 2 in Auckland to embark on this transatlantic journey with the hope of becoming the team’s onboard reporter. A key role onboard for Dongfeng Race Team and the Volvo Ocean Race, Allan had a crash course in Newport to bring him up to speed with the media systems on board and he is relishing the challenge of bringing the ‘human’ story to life:
'For our Chinese sailors, some of them have left home for more than one month now and are missing their family. This is the first time for all of them, even though some of them have some offshore sailing experience, but to a sailor every sailing day is different. But they are all keen to do it and looking forward to the challenge. On this trip, there are nine crew – a mix of four French, one Swede, three Chinese and one Kiwi-Chinese – me! It will be challenging for our skipper Charles – how to organise and manage the crew will be the first thing for him to face.'
You can follow the team’s progress on their official website.
Volvo Ocean Race