venerdì 30 marzo 2018

Volvo Ocean Race - Dongfeng Race Team passes Cape Horn after brutal Southern Ocean passage

The Chinese-sponsored entry in the 2017-18 Volvo Ocean Race, Dongfeng Race Team, today passed Cape Horn, the most iconic and feared headland in world sailing, as they exited the Southern Pacific Ocean after 12 brutal days of racing.    The crew skippered by Charles Caudrelier of France sailed past the famous headland at 15.45 UTC in daylight and only a couple of miles off the rugged and wild Patagonian coast.

As befitted an extremely tough passage in the continuing Leg 7 of the race from Auckland in New Zealand to Itajai in Brazil, there was plenty of breeze and breaking seas as Dongfeng moved from the south Pacific into the south Atlantic.

The crew sponsored by the Chinese car and truck manufacturer Dongfeng Motor Corporation, lies in second place overall in the race, five points behind the Spanish team on MAPFRE.

In this leg, which still has 1,800 miles to go as the crews head north towards Brazil, Dongfeng is lying in third place 41 nautical miles behind leader Team Brunel and three miles behind second-placed Vestas 11th Hour Racing.

This Volvo Ocean Race has been overshadowed in the last two days by the tragic loss overboard of British sailor John Fisher, a crew member on Team Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag. Caudrelier had Fisher and his skipper David Witt very much in mind when he reflected on reaching this milestone for the second time as Dongfeng skipper.

“Passing Cape Horn is normally a moment for a party on board to celebrate, but this time it is ruined by this terrible story that is part of the life of a sailor,” said Caudrelier. “In the mountains, people who are in the high peaks know the risks. (This sort of tragedy) is much less common at sea, so we are much more shocked.

“It is a relief to have passed Cape Horn with the boat in good condition and all the crew on board,” he added. “Obviously, we think a lot about David (Witt) and his team and especially the family of John Fisher because we do not come here for that. In the Volvo Ocean Race we see all the families, all the children, and we cannot imagine what this is like for them...a boat that arrives in port without Dad, is a terrible thing.”

The entire crew complement of Dongfeng Race Team gathered in the cockpit to mark the moment they reached the fabled latitude and longitude of the Horn, 55°58’ South, 67°16’ West. They held up a smudged whiteboard with blue felt-tip lettering announcing “Cape Horn” in both English and Chinese and the date. It also included the message: “Fish, we will never forget you.”

Among the most satisfied to have reached this famous landmark is Chinese sailor Chen Jinhao, also known as Horace, who missed this opportunity in the last race in 2015 through injury. As the headland approached Horace gave a big thumbs up in the cockpit to celebrate becoming one of only a handful of Chinese sailors to have achieved this goal in the modern era.

Dutch sailor Carolijn Brouwer celebrated her third rounding with her French teammate Marie Riou who was reaching Cape Horn for the first time on what she is adamant will be her only participation in this race.

“Proud moment for DFRT rounding Cape Horn. But our thoughts go out to Scallywag and the Fisher family. RIP Fish, you will be missed,” Brouwer tweeted.

For Dongfeng Race Team this is a particularly special moment because in the last race it was just before Cape Horn that the crew had to contend with a mast failure which forced them to retire from this leg and head for the Argentinian port of Ushuaia for repairs. That incident put an end to any chances the team had of winning the race.

This time Dongfeng’s main rival for overall honours, MAPFRE, is the one contending with damage. The Spanish team under Xabi Fernandez has elected to stop in the lee of an island six miles west of Cape Horn to try to repair damage incurred five days ago to the boat’s mast track and mainsail.

Under the race rules a boat that officially suspends racing, as MAPFRE has chosen to do, must wait at least 12 hours before setting sail again from the place where they first stopped.

Fernandez and his crew will be hoping that a large area of high pressure off the Argentinian coast will slow the leaders sufficiently in the next few days to allow them to catch up.

Dongfeng is sailing to try to win this race after finishing third overall in 2014-15. The team is also committed to helping to develop the sport of offshore ocean racing in China and encourage young Chinese to take up sailing. 

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