sabato 19 maggio 2018
Volvo Ocean Race - Dongfeng Race Team - The transatlantic sprint: double points and everything to play for
Charles Caudrelier, the skipper of Dongfeng Race Team in the 2017-18 Volvo Ocean Race, is ready to take the battle for overall honours in this marathon competition as the teams prepare for Leg 9 across the Atlantic. Setting sail on Sunday from Newport, Rhode Island, the seven crews in this world championship of fully-crewed ocean racing, face an 8-10 day, 3,300-nautical mile, “sprint” across the Atlantic to the Welsh capital, Cardiff.
Dongfeng Race Team which is sponsored by the Chinese car and truck manufacturer, Dongfeng Motor Corporation, is lying in second place overall, three points behind Xabi Fernandez’s crew on MAPFRE and Caudrelier knows that with three legs left it is time to go on the front foot.
“We have to attack. The leader MAPFRE is in a good position and they can only lose; we can only gain,” said Caudrelier who is eagerly awaiting the next stage. “This is what we are ready for now and what we are focusing on.”
Caudrelier and his team admit that their disappointing finish to Leg 8 from Itajai in Brazil to Newport has taken a bit of time to come to terms with. Dongfeng led for much of that leg and was leading with 20 miles to go, only to lose one place after another in tricky foggy conditions and finish fourth in the final windless miles to the line.
But Caudrelier says the anger they all felt about that has now been re-channelled into determination to right that wrong over the next three legs to the finish at The Hague at the end of June.
“It made us very angry because we did a fantastic leg and we didn’t deserve that finish,” he said. “But it is part of the race of course and we didn’t sail as well as we should have – probably – but I think that experience has developed a new energy in the crew to fight for the next one.”
Caudrelier makes the point that although Dongfeng is behind in the ranking, the team still has control over its final position in this race in the battle with both MAPFRE and third-placed Team Brunel.
“We are second and we still have our destiny in our hands,” he said. “The next leg will be different because we are completely changing the rhythm of the race. We have been used to long offshore legs and lots of things can happen in two or three weeks at sea. This time it is going to be a sprint. Usually we take care of ourselves and try to sleep well but here we have no choice; we have to be 100% all the time.
“It is a very interesting leg where we will face strong winds, light winds and everything. You need to be good in all these areas. Some teams are better in strong winds, some in light winds and here you have to be good in everything. There will be some big decisions to make at the chart table on navigation.”
The Dongfeng sailors know the Atlantic well having completed a total of more than 70 transatlantic passages. Chen Jinhao, aka Horace, the Chinese bowman on board, made his first full passage on Dongfeng across the Atlantic during the build-up to the last Volvo Ocean Race in 2014 while navigator Pascal Bidégorry still holds the outright Transatlantic record as skipper of the 131ft trimaran, Banque Populaire V in 2009 with a run from New York to the Lizard in three days, 15 hours and 25 minutes. They also broke the 24-hour distance record covering 908.2 miles at an average speed of 37.84 knots.
The leg looks challenging with varied conditions expected. Bidegorry believes the early stages could be crucial. “Three thousand miles is a short distance compared to what we have been doing recently,” he said. “We have made this course between America and Europe a lot of times and I know that small details during the first two or three days are really important, so we have to be careful about that.”
Bruno Dubois, the Team Director, has been enjoying working with the team during the stopover in America where the family atmosphere has been very much to the fore.
“My way of managing the team is to be close to people and try to have a sort of family atmosphere because I think, in the end, it will be a team that will win the race, not an individual and because it is my way of doing it – I feel more comfortable when people are getting along well together instead of just being driven by completion,” he said.
Dubois makes the point that Dongfeng Race Team has been the quickest boat around the world in terms of total time and will almost certainly pick up a bonus point for this at the finish which could be decisive.
“We are the boat with the smallest elapsed time and not a by a small margin,” he said. “This means we have been doing a very good job overall, that we have sailed consistently and I hope there will be rewards for that at the end.”