- Crew presentation in Paris in the presence of Dongfeng Motor Corporation management and international media
- Pascal Bidégorry returns as navigator; all-rounder Kevin Escoffier also named in Chinese entry
- The 12-strong sailing squad is now complete
- Includes two female sailors
- Six nations represented
With 160 days to go to the start of the world’s toughest fully-crewed offshore race at Alicante in Spain October 22, Dongfeng Race Team announced a 12-strong sailing squad from six nations that combines youth with experience.
Led for the second consecutive time by Charles Caudrelier of France, the crew counts five Volvo Ocean Race wins, five Olympic campaigns, and 32 Solitaire du Figaro campaigns – including five wins - among its sailors’ achievements.
In addition to Caudrelier, the crew includes Figaro and Transat Jacques Vabre winner Pascal Bidégorry, who returns as navigator. An ocean racing record-setter, Bidégorry was Caudrelier’s righthand man, in the previous edition of the race, and played a key role in the team’s meteo and tactical strategy.
The French offshore all-rounder Kevin Escoffier, another pillar from the last campaign, is also back in the squad. Escoffier is not only a brilliant offshore sailor but an expert technician and boat builder.
Already announced are New Zealanders Stu Bannatyne, who will compete in the race for the eighth time, and Daryl Wislang who won the last edition with Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing. Also in the sailing team is Jeremie Beyou, the French Vendée Globe podium finisher and one-design offshore specialist, who will be taking on his first Volvo Ocean Race campaign.
Bannatyne, Wislang and Beyou will share watch captain duties on Dongfeng.
The team’s two female stars are Marie Riou of France, a four-time world champion in the Nacra 17 class, and Carolijn Brouwer from Holland who has already sailed the race twice with all-female crews.
On the bow and also helping with helming duties is the up-and-coming Australian/British sailor Jack Bouttell, a veteran of three Figaro campaigns.
As before, Dongfeng Race Team remains committed to helping to establish offshore ocean racing in China and the sailing crew includes three young Chinese pioneering sailors – Yang Jiru (Wolf), Xue Liu (Black) and Jinhao Chen (Horace) - originally selected and trained for the 2014-15 race.
Commenting on the full sailing squad for first time, Caudrelier said: “I wanted a group of people on the boat who will grow stronger in adversity, never give up and have some fun along the way too.”
He added: “We will be living in close quarters for months. We will be wet, cold, hungry, hot, exhausted and desperate for sleep at times, so the relationships we build have to be strong to withstand those pressures. I am happy with the squad we have assembled and I am confident that we will measure up to the task ahead.”
In this campaign Dongfeng Race Team is looking to improve on its impressive debut appearance in the Volvo Ocean Race when it surprised pundits and fans alike by finishing third overall.
“The key has been to use our experience from 2014-15 and add to it, not rely on it,” said Team Director, Bruno Dubois at the press conference.
“Appointing Charles Caudrelier as skipper was the first step. I know that Charles is more determined than ever to improve on his superb performance three years ago and he has demonstrated that he has the leadership skills to deal with the unique demands of Dongfeng Race Team. But we have added some new ingredients to the mix – high-achieving men and women who bring experience and a hunger for success that fits our philosophy,” added Dubois.
Guillaume Semblat, CEO of OC Sport, the company managing the campaign, paid tribute to Dongfeng Motor Corporation for returning to the race: “For us at OC Sport, having a sponsor of this calibre, that is so passionate about what we are doing, is hugely important and we are delighted to be managing this great company’s second entry in one of the world’s toughest sporting events,”.
Officials at Dongfeng Motor Corporation said the company’s 170,000 employees are looking forward to following their team as they make their way around the world. “From all of us at Wuhan in China, we wish the crew all the best, and we look forward to Dongfeng Race Team achieving a good result in this new campaign.”
The team has already completed more than 120 days of on-the-water training in its newly-re-fitted Volvo Ocean 65 one-design, Dongfeng, and on board smaller one-designs.
Dongfeng Race Team sailors entered the Rolex Sydney to Hobart classic in December. The next big race commitment is the Rolex Fastnet Race in early August and then the Plymouth to Lisbon Race for Volvo Ocean Race crews that will start on August 10. This will see Dongfeng line up against her rivals for the first time.
In addition to the sailing team, Dongfeng Race Team has assembled a highly experienced support team. This includes the weather and routing guru Marcel van Triest. Fabien Delahaye is head of the performance department working alongside analysts Olivier Douillard and Cyril Douillet. The team electronics expert is Ben Swartz.
The Volvo Ocean Race is one of the toughest logistical challenges in sport and is extremely demanding physically for the sailors. The team has recruited experts in all the relevent fields, all of whom are focused on the same core objective – to help ensure the team sails to the best of its ability.
Dongfeng Race Team sailing team
Charles Caudrelier (FRA), skipper
Pascal Bidegorry (FRA), navigator
Stu Bannatyne (NZL), watch captain
Jeremie Beyou (FRA), watch captain
Daryl Wislang (NZL), watch captain
Carolijn Brouwer (NL), trimmer
Jack Bouttell (GBR-AUS), bowman
Jinhao Chen ‘Horace’ (CHN), bowman
Kevin Escoffier (FRA), bowman
Xue Liu “Black” (CHN), pitman
Marie Riou (FRA), trimmer
Yang Jiru “Wolf”(CHN), pitman