The Volvo Ocean Race is the world’s premier full-crewed offshore ocean racing championship in which the elite of the sailing profession battle it out on the most treacherous oceans. It is an eight-month marathon on the seas, crossing four oceans and visiting five continents. The race is an exceptional test of sailing prowess and human endeavour where athletes push themselves to the limit of endurance.
This time the 2017/18, the Volvo Ocean Race will visit 11 landmark cities, including Hong Kong and Guangzhou and, after 45,000 nautical miles of racing finish at The Hague in the Netherlands. As in the last race, the boats are strict one-designs with almost identical performance characteristics meaning that - more than in any other global ocean race - the performance of each boat is down to the crew and the decisions they make.
However, the big difference between this race and its immediate predecessors is that the crews will spend far more time in the Southern Ocean than before. In the last race in 2014/15 there was a total of 4,500 nautical miles in the Southern Ocean - this time that figure is up to 12,500 miles. No wonder the Volvo Ocean Race organisers have talked about the event “returning to its roots.”
Charles Caudrelier, the skipper of Dongfeng Race Team, knows that contending with the challenge of the Southern Ocean, where huge seas are generated by winds that can reach 70 knots, will be key to success this time round. “The Southern Ocean is the ultimate challenge in fully-crewed ocean racing, demanding more from the crew than anywhere else in the world,” says Caudrelier. “We have no illusions about how hard it will be.”
Another new feature this time is the likelihood that there will be a female crew member in Dongfeng Race Team, in line with new rules announced by the race organisers. Caudrelier believes this is a positive step for sailing and for women in the Volvo Ocean Race. “From my point of view I am happy about this because it will give some of the best female sailors in the world a chance to compete in the Volvo Ocean Race,” he said.