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DONGFENG RACE TEAM – THE FULL STORY

07-15-2015 10:33 作者:Sanya Sailing

Dongfeng Race Team’s full story from the start line in Alicante to the finish line in Gothenburg. Relive the emotion, the high and the lows with this brilliant 8-part story by Ed Gorman

CHAPTER ONE: INTO BATTLE

After a 10-month mission to select its Chinese crew and blend them into a battle-hardened unit with their Western counterparts, the start day for the Dongfeng Race Team in the Volvo Ocean Race 2014-15 had finally arrived.



Dongfeng Race Team in Alicante. Image credit: Ainhoa Sanchez

 

Fittingly, Team Brunel skippered by Bouwe Bekking beginning his seventh Volvo, led the fleet across the line on a classic opening stage that took the crews from the Mediterranean into the Atlantic, then across the Doldrums to the fringes of the Southern Ocean and the finish at Cape Town.

 

 
Dongfeng in the first 24 hours of Leg 1. Image credit: Marc Bow

 

It would turn out to be an exhausting first three days as the crews beat down the Spanish coast. After the first 24 hours the fleet was spread over only 5.5 miles of ocean. “The boats are identical and it shows,” said skipper Charles Caudrelier. “This is going to be exciting.”

Out in the Atlantic the weather dictated a course close to the African coast. Dongfeng was showing excellent speed in light airs and took the lead. It was looking good for the underdogs when the Chinese team experienced the first big drama of the race.

“BANG!” – the boat shuddered with the explosive impact of a collision in the darkness. The crew immediately feared that the keel or the hull had been damaged. A quick inspection showed one of the rudders had been sheered off. A decision was taken to replace the broken section with the spare and Thomas Rouxel went into the water to help remove the stub and guide the new blade in.


A quick inspection showed one of the rudders had been sheered off. Image credit: Yann Riou

 

After passing through the Cape Verde Islands, the Doldrums was the next challenge. The Chinese boat was in the middle of the fleet in this treacherous transition zone, with rivals to the east and west, and lost ground. After 60 hours she had slipped to fourth and Eric Peron admitted he was “gutted” at their ill-fortune.

On their 14th day at sea Caudrelier’s crew passed the island of Fernando de Noronha still in fourth place, 114 miles behind the leader Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing (ADOR), skippered by Ian Walker. The St Helena High was the next obstacle. It was now a game of follow the leader, or dare to do your own thing behind, as the boats raced downwind in brilliant sunshine off the Brazilian coast.

By November 1st – the 20th day at sea – Dongfeng was back up to second place, just 16nm behindADOR with Brunel just 4nm astern. The Chinese boat was “back in the game” as the leaders reached at 25-30 knots towards Table Mountain.

“It’s war out here,” was how Caudrelier described the scene after Dongfeng experienced the first major deck hardware failure of the race. A padeye that anchors the control line for the big spinnaker, had given way, exploding across the deck in a violent flash, causing significant damage as it did so.

Dongfeng experienced the first major deck hardware failure of the race. Image credit: Yann Riou 

 

With running repairs undertaken, it was a straight line race to Cape Town as the boys on Dongfeng began to realise that they were on course to finish in either first or second place. ADOR was still there, just 4.5nm ahead, as Dongfeng stalked them.

Walker did not put a foot wrong but the margin between the top two at the finish was a mere 12 minutes and four seconds after 25 days of racing. It was an extraordinary close result that demonstrated just how exciting this race was going to be.

For Dongfeng it was an arrival under the imposing backdrop of Table Mountain that made history. This was the first fully Chinese sponsored boat ever to make the podium in the Volvo.

 

This was the first fully Chinese sponsored boat ever to make the podium in the Volvo. Image credit: Ainhoa Sanchez

 

WHAT THEY SAID BEFORE THE START

Yang Jiru (Wolf): “The friendship between us is strong and even though some of the Chinese sailors are not on the boat, we will help each other. I will race for them and if I’m tired, I will think of them and we will fight together. We are a team and we are also friends. I am looking forward to this leg; I’m excited to race with Horace. He is a bowman – I am a pitman and trust is needed between these two positions on board.”

Charles Caudrelier: “I am nervous but I trust my team. Contrary to popular belief, I am not nervous about the Chinese sailors. They are strong and they are solid and most importantly, they are ready. The Western sailors will help them and teach them and, we may not be the best team on this start line, but we aim to be the best team in Gothenburg and I really mean that.”

Chen Jinhao (Horace): “We are one, we are a team and together we share a dream. My dream is shared with everyone else on this boat and together we will make Dongfeng and our people proud. That is my dream.”

 

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Located in tropical Sanya, south of Hainan province, Sanya Serenity Marina has, within a few years, established itself as one of the Top Marina in the World, and The reference in China.

Voted Best China Yacht Club / Marina of the Year by the influential Asia Boating Magazine in 2014, it moved on to collect the Best Asian Yacht Club award the following year! Besides, Sanya Serenity Marina is the only coastal marina in China to have been accredited “5 Gold Anchors” - the international rating scheme for marinas, the highest in the industry, granted for its design, quality, professionalism and services by international inspectors under the authority of the Marina Industry Association (Australia), and TYHA (UK).

This marina is surely outstanding because of its splendid location, its design, its modern equipment and services, its international and competent staff, its lifestyle and dedication to welcome important regattas and races. Sanya Serenity Marina has twice been selected as the Asian Stopover of the Volvo Ocean Race and provides an ideal training ground for professional sailing teams.

Sanya Serenity Marina…. the place to be!

 

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