Less than a month ago, Dongfeng Race Team, which will be 100% backed by Dongfeng Motor Cooperation, announced its particpation in the Volvo Ocean Race for the second time. Caudrelier, who skippered the Dongfeng Race Team entry in the last Volvo to third place overall, has been in Sydney for the past week training for the Sydney Hobart with a mixed Chinese and French crew on board the Cookson 50 UBOX.
The boat is owned by the leading Chinese offshore sailor and chief executive of UBOX – the Chinese vending machine business – Wang Bin who is expected to join the boat for the 72nd edition of the Hobart which sets sail on Boxing Day.
On board this week have been Caudrelier and his Volvo Ocean Race navigator Pascal Bidégorry plus Thomas Rouxel and Jiru Jang – aka Wolf who, like Rouxel, sailed in the last Volvo. In addition there are several potential new recruits to the team plus eight Chinese UBOX sailors. Caudrelier says the tie-up with the UBOX project - a team with whom he and Bidégorry competed in the Rolex China Sea Race earlier this year – is part of Dongfeng Race Team’s mission to help grow the sport of offshore ocean racing in China and the Sydney Hobart is a perfect warm-up race for the Volvo. “It is great to train all together and it’s one of our goals to help develop offshore sailing in China,” Caudrelier said.
“It not only shows our support of Dongfeng Race Team but also offers an opportunity for my sailors to learn from Charles’s crew. Perhaps next year, our team can take part in an international race.” Wang Bin, UBOX owner
“The Volvo itself is one part of that but there is a limit to the number of Chinese sailors we can taken on our race crew so this project, and the Sydney Hobart, is a great way to help more young Chinese sailors learn the ropes. ” The crew has been out on the water every day this week and will tomorrow complete an overnight passage from its base at the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia at Rushcutters Bay on Sydney Harbour. “It’s been fantastic, quite breezy but not too bad and the perfect way for us to ‘learn’ the boat,” said Caudrelier .
This will be Caudrelier’s first Sydney Hobart and the former Solitaire du Figaro winner is well aware of its fearsome reputation. “I have never done it – this will be my first time and I hope it will be the last,” quipped the French skipper. “It looks like a hard upwind race with strong winds and cold conditions but we will sail some of this course – albeit in the opposite direction in the Volvo – so it is good to practice it,” he added.
Wang Bin fell in love with sailing when he was invited to take part in a race in Hong Kong in 2003 and has since skippered the first Chinese yacht to complete a circumnavigation. He is delighted with the partnership with Dongfeng Race Team, and believes it is an historical moment for the Chinese sailing world. “The cooperation between UBOX and Dongfeng Race Team is a joint training process,” he said. “It not only shows our support of Dongfeng Race Team but also offers an opportunity for my sailors to learn from Charles’s crew. Perhaps next year, our team can take part in an international race. All in all, this is a meaningful cooperation, so I am willing to do it.” Wang Bin believes that Dongfeng Race Team’s remarkable third place overall in the last Volvo Ocean Race was an incredible result – and one they could have exceeded had the boat’s mast not failed in the Southern Ocean.
“I am super-excited to see Dongfeng Race Team come back to the Volvo Ocean Race,” he said. “I followed them last time from the beginning and I felt so sorry to see the mast fail. I remember being quite emotional watching a video taken of Dongfeng going slowly past Cape Horn while all the other teams were pushing ahead.”
Caudrelier returns to Europe at the end of this week and will shortly travel to Lisbon in Portugal to check on the major re-fit of Dongfeng at the Volvo Ocean Race official Boatyard facility. The red and white Chinese Volvo Ocean 65 is the first of the seven boats that took part in the last race to enter the re-fit process and it is due to emerge from the shed in January. Caudrelier said: “We are the first into the Boatyard and I am pleased with that because it means more people are working on it than would be the case if we were later in the cycle. The re-fit is going well and is on schedule which is important. It means we will have a good boat and on time.” On Saturday 3 December, Caudrelier will join the Vendée Globe live show in both English and French from 12:00 CET.