Every child has a dream and for some young Chinese sailors that dream is to be able to sail and race on the world’s oceans and perhaps one day sail around the globe.
For a group of Chinese youngsters that dream came one step closer when they had the chance to visit the headquarters of Dongfeng Race Team on Saturday and meet some of their sailing heroes – young men like Wolf, Black and Horace.
The visit to the Dongfeng Race Team base at Lorient in France – part of Dongfeng Race Team’s long-standing commitment to helping to develop the sport of offshore sailing in China – proved a wonderful opportunity for the youngsters to expand their knowledge and to see firsthand what is involved in racing around the world.
The 35 young sailors, aged from 8-16 years old, are in France for the Topper class World Championships being staged at Loctudy in Brittany this week. During their trip to Lorient they also had the chance to meet the team’s French skipper, Charles Caudrelier.
“We were delighted to welcome all the Chinese kids who are competing in the Topper World Championship,” said Caudrelier who is masterminding Dongfeng Race Team’s second campaign in the Volvo Ocean Race. “This is the sort of opportunity that can help young sailors really understand what the Volvo Ocean Race and offshore racing is all about.
“When I was a child, I saw professional sailors taking part in the Route du Rhum, for example, and I dreamt of taking part in it one day myself. I hope that we are now helping the dream to continue and to grow in China,” he added.
The children visiting the base were selected from four sailing clubs in China - Beijing Sailing Center, Unione Sailing Club, Vanhang Sailing Club and Whisper of the Wind Sailing Club - and they were the first Chinese youngsters to visit the base where they took part in activities to help them get a better understanding of what ocean racing is all about.
Activities included an introduction to the Volvo Ocean Race and to Dongfeng Race Team – its history and its ambitions in the next race – a tour of Dongfeng, the team’s race boat, a chance to taste some of the freeze-dried food the sailors will consume during the nine-month race, and a gym session to give them an idea of the sort of training the team has been doing.
Horace and Black plus fellow Chinese sailors Leo and Kong helped with answers to the many questions from kids like Wilson who said: “The boat is much bigger than I imagined and the sailors are very tall. I love sailing because it makes me feel free and I would like to compete at the Olympics. It is amazing for us to see Dongfeng Race Team and meet some of the sailors.”
Horace was delighted to meet some young fans of the team. As a sailor with Dongfeng Race Team and also as the founder of Unione Sailing Club, it was a proud moment for him. “It was great for me to meet young Chinese sailors who have never seen the sort of boat or operation we are running at Dongfeng Race Team. For me it was a great pleasure to show them around and listen to their comments. I hope they can benefit from this visit and can do well in the Topper World Championship.”
Rick Pointon, the founder of the Beijing Sailing Center who is leading the Chinese team to the Topper worlds, said: “Sailing is growing fast in China and we have more than 30 kids at the Topper World Championship. Today was magic for the kids and for our objective to make that sport more and more popular in the country.
“Climbing aboard the Volvo 65 Dongfeng, the kids were really fascinated and were taking notes and asking questions. Maybe one day, one of these youngsters will be at the same level as Horace, Black, Leo, Wolf, and Kong and will compete in the Volvo Ocean Race themselves.”
Sponsored by Dongfeng Motor Corporation, Dongfeng Race Team is an international professional sailing team that was created to take part in the Volvo Ocean Race. It finished third overall in the last edition in 2014-15 and is now aiming to improve on that performance in the Volvo Ocean Race 2017-18, which starts from Alicante in Spain on October 22nd. The visit of Chinese young sailors to Lorient is part of the team’s long term commitment, working together with Chinese sailing clubs, to promote sailing in China.
In recent years, sailing has developed rapidly in China, especially in the fields of youth training. Dongfeng Race Team hopes that part of its sporting legacy will have been to assist in the development of youth sailing and also in helping young Chinese understand and participate in the sport. A Dongfeng Race Team Future Sailors Plan will be launched in the near future.
In the meantime Dongfeng Race Team is preparing for its first competitive test against its rivals in the Volvo Ocean Race when it takes on the 600-mile Rolex Fastnet Race from Cowes to Plymouth in the UK – via the Fastnet Rock off the southwest coast of Ireland – starting on August 6th.