Volvo Ocean Race Leg Zero: Dongfeng Race Team is ready for battle
“This is the opportunity to measure what progress we have made in training and we are looking forward to meeting the fleet on the racecourse for the first time.” Charles Caudrelier
After an intense six-month training period at its base in Lorient in France, Dongfeng Race Team has relocated to the English south coast. The Chinese team is now ready to compete in the Leg Zero series, the official warm-up for competitors in the Volvo Ocean Race 2017-18.
Following Lendy Cowes Week Round the Isle of Wight Race tomorrow (August 2nd), the seven-boat Volvo Ocean Race fleet will compete in the Rolex Fastnet Race starting on August 6th. There will then be two special passage races for Volvo Ocean 65s, from Plymouth to Saint Malo (August 10th -11th) and then from Saint Malo to Lisbon (start, August 13th).
Leg Zero is the first racing for the Volvo Ocean 65 fleet ahead of the main Volvo Ocean Race which begins from Alicante in Spain on October 22nd. An overall Leg Zero winner will be declared, based on the four scoring races above, but no points will be carried forward to the Volvo Ocean Race itself.
The international Dongfeng Race Team crew, led by its French skipper Charles Caudrelier, is eagerly awaiting its first chance to line up against the boats and crews it will be racing in the coming months.
“Leg Zero is an important first outing for us where we hope to gain confidence and it is important to see how we and the others are sailing,” explained Caudrelier after delivering the red and white Volvo Ocean 65, Dongfeng, to Gosport on the Solent from Brittany. “This is the opportunity to measure what progress we have made in training and we are looking forward to meeting the fleet on the racecourse for the first time.”
“These short races are quite different from the Volvo Ocean Race because you don’t run a marathon like you run 800 metres. When you are close to the shore you also normally have more sail changes and more tacks and gybes so you will not sail the same way when you are at sea for three days compared to 25 days. But it is good to train with these kinds of races which are interesting and dynamic. You need to be good at transitions between localised weather patterns,” added Caudrelier.
The Leg Zero series comes at the end of an intense six-month training and crew selection phase for Dongfeng Race Team when the crew, which consists of men and women from six nations including China, have worked hard on all aspects of their preparation.
This has included inshore and offshore racing, race practice in small one-designs, work on calibration, manoeuvres, meteorology and physical fitness. In recent weeks the team has been working with Bertrand Pacé, the French former America’s Cup skipper and world match racing champion, on inshore race starting technique and teamwork.
At all times the emphasis has been on performance, something underlined by Dongfeng Race Team Director Bruno Dubois. “If there is something I have learned it is that we have to stay focused on our objective and that is to do the best we can in terms of results after our third place finish overall in the last Volvo Ocean Race,” said Dubois.
“Over the last few months, Charles has done a great job keeping the boat and the team running with a variety of activities without pushing too hard – we do not want to make the mistake of starting the Volvo Ocean Race with a tired boat and a tired team,” Dubois added. “Having said that, I know the guys and Charles want to do well in the Leg Zero races.”
For one Dongfeng Race Team sailor the relocation to the Solent has been like returning home. Jack Bouttell, the Australian/British bowman on Dongfeng, cut his teeth sailing on the Solent and he is looking forward to racing the Chinese Volvo Ocean 65 for the first time in familiar waters.
“The Round the Island Race should be fun,” said Bouttell. “All of us in the team are pretty curious to see some or our rivals out on the water for the first time and the famous course around the Isle of Wight is bound to throw up some interesting tactical and sail management issues – it’s going be a tricky first test.”
The Dongfeng Race Team crew for Round the Island
Charles Caudrelier (FRA, skipper/helm)
Pascal Bidégorry (FRA, tactics)
Daryl Wislang (NZL, mainsail)
Carolijn Brouwer (NL, trim)
Marie Riou (FRA, grind)
Jack Bouttell (GBR/AUS, bow)
Chen Jinhao/Horace (CHN, bow)
Yang Jiru/Wolf (CHN, pit)
Jérémie Beyou (FRA, pit)
Fabien Delahaye (FRA, pit)
Volvo Ocean Race Leg Zero timeline (local time)
2 August, 09:50, Lendy Cowes Week Round the Isle of Wight Race start, Royal Yacht Squadron
5 August, 14:00, Rolex Fastnet Race press conference, RORC
6 August, 12:40, VO65 fleet start for the Rolex Fastnet Race
9 August, ETA in Plymouth, the boats will dock at Mount Batten
10 August, 13:30 Plymouth-Saint Malo start
11 August, 9:00, ETA Saint Malo, fleet in the ‘Bassin Vauban’
12 August, 9:45, Pro-Am race start
13 August, 13:00, Saint Malo-Lisbon start
15 or 16 August: ETA in Lisbon
Each of the four races will be scored equally on a high points scoring system. 1st place/8 points; 2nd/7pts; 3rd/6pts; 4th/5pts; 5th/4pts; 6th/3pts; 7th/2pts
Akzo Nobel (Netherlands), Simeon Tienpont
Dongfeng Race Team (China), Charles Caudrelier
MAPFRE (Spain), Xabi Fernández
Scallywag (Hong Kong), David Witt
Team Brunel (Netherlands), Bouwe Bekking
Turn the Tide of Plastic (International), Dee Caffari
Vestas-11th hour racing (USA/Denmark), Charlie Enright