Volvo Ocean Race 2014-15 - Lorient, France, June 26 - Four rookie Chinese sailors were today revealed as crewmembers in Dongfeng Race Team’s final 10-strong race squad for the Volvo Ocean Race 2014-15.
Dongfeng Race Team Chinese crew members: Jin Hao Chen (English name Horace), Jiru Yang (Wolf), Ying Kit Cheng (Kit) and Liu Ming (Leo) - Volvo Ocean Race 2014-15
French skipper Charles Caudrelier also unveiled a world-class group of five western sailors to boost the Chinese challenge for the 12th edition of sailing’s leading offshore event.
Never before has a race squad included so many from the world’s most populous nation and the move announced at a press conference in Lorient, France today marks an important staging post in ambitions to enter an all-Chinese crew in two races’ time (2020-21).
Previously, only one Chinese representative had competed in each of the 2008-09 and 2011-12 editions of the Volvo Ocean Race.
'This is a very important development for the race,' said Volvo Ocean Race CEO Knut Frostad. 'We are building a fan following in China which is a key market for us and the sport is growing there after their London Olympic success when one of their sailors won a gold medal.
'A lot of people, us included, will be following the progress of the Chinese crew members on board Dongfeng Race Team very closely indeed.'
Team chief Bruno Dubois said that the selection of the quartet in a nine-strong squad of crewmembers had been the culmination of half a year’s hard work in a nationwide ‘search for China’s future sailing stars’.
'We knew there were not many offshore sailors in China and that our training process would have to be rigorous and intense,' he explained. 'We were searching for candidates who could take on the challenges that the race will throw at them.
'I’m encouraged that after a six-month process and 10,000 miles of offshore training, we now have a great team here today even if the Chinese guys still have so much to learn before getting to the start line. We have lost some of our best hopes along the way too – the challenge and hardship of ocean racing does not suit everyone.'
Chinese sailors Jin Hao Chen (English name Horace), Jiru Yang (Wolf), Ying Kit Cheng (Kit) and Liu Ming (Leo) were the final four sailors chosen by Caudrelier to become part of the race crew to represent China.
'I feel like everything is falling into place,' said Yang. 'This is my dream and this is the proudest day of my life. Before Dongfeng Race Team I didn’t feel like my life had direction, but now it does. I know who I am and where I’m going. I’m going to represent my country in the Volvo Ocean Race.'
How did Caudrelier identify these Chinese sailors? 'At first we picked the best sailors, then we realised that attitude was one of the most important attributes. Horace, Leo, Kit and Wolf had by far the best attitudes and were the most motivated,' he said.
'Leo is physically the best, he can move around the boat at ease and has one of the most competitive streaks I’ve ever seen. He always wants to be first, even if we’re running he pushes to be in front of the others. He is a quiet guy with the right attitude.'
Caudrelier, 40, knows exactly the 'right attitude' needed to excel in the Volvo Ocean Race. He was a key member of Franck Cammas’s winning crew in the last event in 2011-12 on board Groupama.
He has chosen a selection of world-class professional offshore sailors who were also announced today in Lorient, which stages the penultimate full stopover of the Race in June next year, and will form the backbone of Dongfeng Race Team.
His first choice was Swede Martin Strömberg, his teammate onboard Groupama. Caudrelier believes he has the perfect character and experience to help him build an effective team from the diverse cultures and skills on board the Dongfeng boat.
'Martin has the patience to teach and is one of the most skilled pitmen I know. I was looking for people who understood the overall ambition of the project and could contribute to the team in a selfless way. Martin was my first choice,' he said.
Caudrelier has also picked four of his countrymen to add experience to the mix: Thomas Rouxel, Pascal Bidégorry, Kevin Escoffier and Eric Peron.
Bidégorry is one of France’s most experienced offshore sailors yet has never competed in the sport’s most prestigious and testing professional crewed event.
'Pascal is someone who will share his experience and continually progress in order to win. I believe people were born to do certain things with their lives, and Pascal was born to sail. When he’s onboard, the boat goes fast – it’s a fact,' added Caudrelier.
The selections leave Dongfeng Race Team with a racing squad of 10 sailors including Caudrelier. Each team can only have eight sailing crew plus an onboard reporter for each leg and Caudrelier will decide whom to use based on the conditions and skills required.
The team will announce their onboard reporter at a later date. The 38,739-nautical mile race begins in Alicante, Spain on October 4 and finishes in Gothenburg on June 27 after visiting 11 countries in total.
Two 'platinum' secondary sponsors for the team were also announced in Lorient today for Dongfeng Race Team: China’s Aeolus Tyres, a global top 20 premium tyre manufacturer, and the city of Shiyan, Dongfeng’s home city and with its Wudang Mountains, the spiritual home of Kung Fu.
Dongfeng Race Team Crew:
Charles Caudrelier, Skipper (FRA)
Pascal Bidégorry, Navigator (FRA)
Liu Ming (Leo), Trimmer (CHN)
Thomas Rouxel, Trimmer (FRA)
Martin Strömberg, Pit & Trimmer (SWE)
Jiru Yang (Wolf), Pit (CHN)
Kevin Escoffier, Bowman (FRA)
Jin Hao Chen (Horace), Bowman (CHN)
Eric Peron, Trimmer (FRA)
Ying Kit Cheng (Kit), Trimmer (CHN)
Onboard Reporter (TBC)