China's Oman Sail

Mark Lloyd / Extreme Sailing Series
Phil Robertson and Herve le Quillec introduce us to ChinaSpirit
Following on from China Team, participant in the 32nd America’s Cup and subsequently in the America’s Cup World Series, another new Chinese sailing campaign has emerged in ChinaSpirit. Previously with China Team, ChinaSpirit CEO is Noëlle Smulders, who last year announced plans for her new team to compete in the 35th America’s Cup, whenever that might be. However ChinaSpirit's first foray out on to the water took place this weekend at the Extreme Sailing Series Cardiff, where their catamaran was skippered by Kiwi match racer Phil Robertson. Also lurking in the background in Cardiff was French heavyweight Herve le Quillec, once upon a time a sailor with the Corum Sailing Team, but better known in recent years for running the increasingly large shore operations for Amer Sport, Brasil 1 and then the winning Ericsson and Groupama campaigns in the Volvo Ocean Race. At present, le Quillec is a consultant to ChinaSpirit and works on the management of the project while Noëlle Smulders focuses more on the marketing and fund raising. Phil Robertson originally came into contact with Smulders when they were both at China Team. Smulders was part of that campaign’s management at around the same time as Robertson became its helmsman, having taken over the China Team AC45 for the America’s Cup World Series events from Venice and on - last in a lengthy succession of skippers including Mitch Booth, Charlie Ogletree and Fred le Peutrec. Since Smulders’ announcement about ChinaSpirit's AC intentions last year, the campaign’s goals have evolved and today its emphasis is much more on the development of the sport of sailing in China and in particular yacht racing. Effectively ChinaSpirit now hopes to achieve in China what Oman Sail has managed in Oman, albeit the challenge being somewhat larger. For starters, China has a population of 1.36 billion at