Dongfeng Race Team Academy Squad train onboard the Volvo Ocean 65. Photo OC Sport.


Dongfeng Race Team skipper Charles Caudrelier has picked six of the 12 Academy Squad sailors to sail the training leg from Sanya to Auckland in a re-enactment of Leg 4 of the Volvo Ocean Race. The chosen six Chinese sailors now move another step closer to realising their dream of making the final race crew onboard ‘Dongfeng’ for the start of the Volvo Ocean Race in October. The six sailors are: Jin Hao Chen (Horace), Liu Ming (Leo), Ying Kit Cheng (Kit), Liu Xue, Jiru Yang (Wolf) and Yiran Zhang.
For the majority of these Chinese sailors it will be their first long offshore sailing experience. “The training process has been gruelling and we have all been in constant competition with each other, it’s such a fantastic feeling to be part of the group chosen by Charles for this particular journey because I know this will be great experience for us and will bring us another step closer to making it into the final race crew,” says Liu Xue.
The remaining six sailors will represent Dongfeng Race Team on the 21st March in the Round Hainan Regatta, competing with the two Jeanneau Sun Fast 3200’s in China’s premier offshore sailing race. They will continue to train as part of the Dongfeng Race Team Academy Squad and are scheduled to re-join the team for training later in the programme.
Parallel to the Round Hainan Regatta, the Dongfeng Race Team are scheduled to depart from their Official Training Base Serenity Marina in Sanya on Thursday 20th March. “It has been a really important time for us here in Sanya, it has allowed the team to train in great conditions and really get to know our boat. Looking ahead, the next important step is to choose the crew and I think this journey will play a key part in that. It will allow us to really test their offshore stamina as it will be a long and tough leg,” explained Charles Caudrelier.
The journey from Sanya to Auckland is 5,264 nautical miles, expected to take around 21 days, and is considered as one of the toughest legs of the Volvo Ocean Race. Auckland is a legendary Volvo Ocean Race stopover and the city are preparing to welcome the team with open arms.
“It’s great news that Dongfeng is coming to Auckland in April and we will welcome the boat and crew in style,” says Richard Wingfield, Chairman of the Local Organising Committee for the Auckland Stopover 2015. “This will be the first chance for Kiwis to see the new one-design boat and I know there’ll be a lot of people down at the waterfront eager to see it close-up.”
This first training leg for Dongfeng Race Team has always been a key part of the training strategy as Team Director, Bruno Dubois explained: “Our planning has been driven by our desire to allow the Dongfeng Race Team to experience as many miles of the Volvo Ocean Race course as possible. This will be the first training leg for the team where we can put the Chinese Academy Squad sailors under the spotlight, as close to a race environment as we can make it.”
Following on from Auckland, subject to timings, the team may then sail Dongfeng to Itajai, Brazil and on to Newport, USA or elect to ship the boat direct to Newport before sailing across the Atlantic to Europe in full race mode.
Ahead of their departure from China, the team were given a rousing reception when they visited the Dongfeng Commercial Vehicle factory in Shiyan. “It’s great to discover DFCV as a company, I’ve been given insights into not only where the company was born and it’s roots but the perfect functionality of the DFCV factories.” explains Caudrelier, “I was also impressed with the power behind the latest heavy duty Kinland truck I got to drive.”
Around 100 lucky employees out of 30,000 from the various plants listened intently as Charles Caudrelier, Bruno Dubois and a number of Academy Squad sailors spoke about their past sailing experiences and their expectations of what lies ahead on the Volvo Ocean Race through the DFCV TV Channel.
“It’s been a great experience coming here, Shiyan is the city of cars, similar to Detroit in the United States” says Bruno Dubois. “We are proud to represent the Dongfeng Commercial Vehicle Company and it was very clear that the employees are equally proud of Dongfeng Race Team. It has strengthen our bond with our sponsor and their employees who I’m sure will follow the race with great excitement, especially the Chinese sailors who will become the true heroes of this story.”
There is a strong commitment to a long-term sporting mission that puts the future interests of Chinese sailing at the core of Dongfeng Race Team project. For the 2014-15 edition the objective is to deliver a competitive campaign with, for the first time in the history of the race, multiple Chinese sailors onboard. This is a key element in setting the conditions for future Volvo Ocean Race campaigns where the aim will be to eventually have a 100% Chinese project with a Chinese skipper and a Chinese crew.
There is a strong momentum to create a legacy for offshore sailing so that Chinese sailors can excel in this discipline, in the same way the Chinese Olympic sailors have done, and to that extent the partnership with the China Yachting Association is a key one for the project.
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