The red and white yacht sponsored by the Chinese car and truck manufacturer, Dongfeng Motor Corporation, beat it’s two closest rivals, MAPFRE skippered by Xabi Fernandez and Team Brunel skippered by Bouwe Bekking, to seal victory after a remarkably close-fought eight-month battle around the world.
Dongfeng Race Team which is made of sailors from seven countries and included two female sailors in its crew for the final stage, plus the Chinese sailor Chen Jinhao (Horace), saved its best for last winning the final leg - its first leg win of the 11 stages that made up the race.
The concluding stage had started on Thursday from Gothenburg in Sweden with Dongfeng Race Team tied on points with both MAPFRE and Team Brunel and with all three crews aware that the finishing order into The Hague would determine the final overall positions.
Dongfeng made it across the line just a few hundred metres off the beach at The Hague where thousands of spectators were watching from onshore and on board a flotilla of yachts, ahead of MAPRE in third place for the leg and second place overall and ahead of Team Brunel in fourth place for the leg and third place overall.
The victory for Dongfeng is the first for a Chinese-flagged team in this classic competition, regarded as the world championship of fully-crewed offshore ocean racing and longest event in world professional sport. It follows Dongfeng Race Team’s first campaign in the race under Caudrelier in 2014-15 when it finished third overall.
For Caudrelier, a 44-year-old father of two who lives in Brittany, today’s win is a huge personal achievement and follows his win in the race as part of the crew of Groupama 4 skippered by Frenchman Franck Cammas in 2011-2012.
A spokesman for Dongfeng Motor Corporation said: “During this long and challenging Volvo Ocean Race, the full team has worked together through the physical and mental challenges presented by the most extreme sailing environment on earth.
“Dongfeng Race Team is the pride of the Dongfeng Group and it has set a great example for everyone in the company to follow, inspired by its team spirit and the way it fought for the ultimate goal. After two campaigns in this race, we have gained more than the sporting result. The race is beyond just competition - it is an ultimate test of human beings and a remarkable exploration of sailing culture.”
Bruno Dubois, Team Director of Dongfeng Race Team, paid tribute to the way his crew handled a tense and difficult final leg. “We sailed our own race and stuck to our guns in the final stages,” he said. “Charles and everyone on board can be extremely proud of their performance in this race. Although we never won a leg until today we were always there or thereabouts and we never gave up.”