Photos; OC Sport

Dongfeng gains a skipper

French solo sailing star and ex-Groupama crewman to lead Chinese Volvo Ocean Race team

Wednesday February 26th 2014, Author: James Boyd, Location: China

Frenchman Charles Caudrelier was announced as skipper of Dongfeng Race Team at the Official Christening in Sanya today.

The Volvo Ocean 65 was officially christened Dongfeng (meaning East Wind) in the presence of famous Chinese sporting stars Zhang Ning and Guo Chuan alongside Volvo Ocean Race CEO, Knut Frostad,Li Quan-Hai, of the China Yachting Association and Director of Watersports National Centre of the China and Gary Huang, General Manager of Dongfeng Commercial Vehicle Company, Title Sponsor of Dongfeng Race Team.

“The choice of Skipper for Dongfeng Race Team was a particularly challenging one because we weren’t only looking for the qualities and leadership of a Volvo Ocean Race skipper but we were also looking for someone who would embrace the task of developing the Chinese sailors that will form part of the team,” explained Team Director Bruno Dubois. “We’re delighted with our choice and look forward to a long and exciting collaboration with Charles.”

Charles Caudrelier is no stranger to the race as a key figure of the winning team Groupama in the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12. He has experienced first hand the extremity of the race and understands what it will mean to guide a team through the next edition.

“Dongfeng Race Team is a natural choice for me," said Caudrelier. "I want to help develop sailing as a sport around the world and China is a major player, not just economically, but in the sporting arena as well. I take a great pleasure in teaching my sport and if the Chinese sailors are willing to learn I am more than willing to teach. There is so much for them to learn, this race is about collaboration, teamwork and adventure. The sport of sailing is a universal language and I want to make people see that.”

As a professional offshore sailor Charles is widely recognised for his victories in the Solitaire du Figaro and the double-handed Transat Jacques Vabre, not to mention his role onboard Groupama with friend and skipper, Franck Cammas.

Knut Frostad, Volvo Ocean Race CEO, recognises Caudrelier is ready for the challenge: “He is a guy at the top of his game in terms of skills and ability, and very importantly he has the ideal personality to take on the extra challenge of integrating the Chinese sailors into the rest of the crew. He is focused on winning but is a man who is always willing to share his considerable knowledge and help progress plans step by step towards a full Chinese crew in future editions of the Volvo Ocean Race."

The Official Launch Ceremony of the VO65 Dongfeng took place in Sanya at the team’s official training base at Serenity Marina earlier today. Nearly 200 guests and media representatives, including China’s national broadcaster CCTV, attended the event.

Gary Huang, General Manager of Dongfeng Commercial Vehicle Company, led the proceedings: “The Volvo Ocean 65 ‘Dongfeng’ now holds the dreams of Dongfeng Commercial Vehicle Company Ltd to become globally recognised as an international brand. The strategic alliance between Dongfeng Group and AB Volvo Group had given DFCV this chance to take part in the one of the most extreme and professional offshore races in the world. It enables Dongfeng to speed up the process of globalizing our Commercial Vehicle Company. We also wish to play a significant part in creating a legacy for offshore racing in China.”

The VO65 was jointly christened by Tong Dongcheng, the Vice President of Dongfeng Motor Corporation, Zhang Ning, Olympic badminton player, Li Quan-Hai, and Guo Chuan who competed in the Volvo Ocean Race 2008-09 aboard Green Dragon.

Chuan commented: “As the first Chinese sailor participating in the Volvo Ocean Race, I witnessed how the Volvo Ocean Race are trying hard to develop offshore sailing in China. I hope with the support from Dongfeng Commercial Vehicle Company Ltd, more and more Chinese sailors will participate in offshore racing. May Dongfeng Race Team show the world what China can do.

Zhang Ning, who won Gold in badmington at the 2004 and 2008 Olympics added: “I’m very glad that a number of these excellent Chinese sailors will be selected after training to become part of the final race crew for Dongfeng race team. It is such a good opportunity for them to participate in the ‘Mount Everest’ of sailing. Mentally this race will challenging for them but I am confident they will do an excellent job!”

Sanya, as an official stopover port of the Volvo Ocean Race 2014-15, is now home to Dongfeng Race Team, where Serenity Marina will host the team through their training period aboard their VO65. The next couple of months are crucial to Charles Caudrelier and the team’s management, as they make the final selection of the professional Western crew and the Chinese race crew who will be hand-picked from the current Academy Squad.

Following the second selection trials over 8-9 February, another four sailors representing the Chinese Yachting Association’s Olympic squad have now joined the existing eight-strong Academy Squad bringing the total to 12. Xiaojing Li, Peng Zhang, Zhen Li and Chencheng Kong are the latest recruits.

Finn sailor Peng Zhen, who participated in the Beijing Olympics and several world championships, spoke for them all when he said: “Dongfeng Race Team will represent China in the Volvo Ocean Race, one of the highest level sporting events on the planet.” explains Peng, “It is my dream to take part in this race and even more so to represent my country.”

There is a strong commitment to a long-term sporting mission that puts the future interests of Chinese sailing at the core of Dongfeng Race Team project. For the 2014-15 edition the objective is to deliver a competitive campaign with, for the first time in the history of the race, multiple Chinese sailors onboard. This is a key element in setting the conditions for the Volvo Ocean Race 2017-18 when the aim is to have a campaign with the majority of the sailors onboard being Chinese and for the 2020-21 edition of the race, a 100% Chinese project with a Chinese skipper and a fully Chinese crew. There is a strong momentum to create a legacy for offshore sailing so that Chinese sailors can excel in this discipline, in the same way the Chinese Olympic sailors have done, and to that extent the partnership with the China Yachting Association is a key one for the project.

The official launch of Dongfeng is only the beginning of a long journey that will be added to the history of offshore sailing in China.

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