Growing Sailing in China: Dongfeng Race Team
Published on February 2nd, 2018
“We suddenly have thousands of young people in hundreds of summer camps doing sailing and those kids are growing now with sailing because they love it. It’s a way of life for them, I think we can see that it’s cool to be sailing now in China,” Bruno Dubois, Team Director of Dongfeng Race Team.
Bruno Dubois, the Director of Dongfeng Race Team, says the Chinese Volvo Ocean Race entry is part of an explosion of sailing in the world’s most populous nation as it embraces new leisure pursuits.
The team which is skippered by Charles Caudrelier of France, and sponsored by Chinese auto manufacturer Dongfeng Motor Corporation, is mid-way through its second Volvo Ocean Race campaign and is lying in second place overall after four of the 11 stages.
Speaking from the Nansha Marina in Guangzhou (China) as the team prepares for the Dongfeng In-Port Race being staged there on February 3, 2018, Dubois said Dongfeng Race Team is setting an example for young Chinese aspiring sailors to follow.
“We can see that the sport is growing here and, in parallel, we are doing the Volvo Ocean Race and all these young people are looking to our team – to our Chinese sailors and to the Western guys in our team, as role models and examples and I think everything will grow in parallel,” said Dubois, who has been involved with the Chinese sailing community for over 20 years.
He added that he believes sailing has now become a “cool” thing to do in China and its growth is going to continue. “We suddenly have thousands of young people in hundreds of summer camps doing sailing and those kids are growing now with sailing because they love it,” he said. “It’s a way of life for them, I think we can see that it’s cool to be sailing now in China.”
Since the 2014-15 Volvo Ocean Race, Chen Jinhao, also known as Horace, has created his own sailing school in Shenzhen, with over 100 of his pupils visiting the race village in Hong Kong to meet the team and the boat.
Dongfeng Race Team, which finished third overall in the last Volvo Ocean Race in 2014-15, has always been committed to helping to build the sport in China and Dubois believes there is now a realistic possibility of an entry crewed entirely by Chinese sailors in the next editions of the race.
“There is a lot to do but my view is that we have to go for a 100% Chinese crew and we can aim to make this happen in the next edition of the Volvo Ocean Race,” Dubois said.
“I look around at the different crew we have, at the shore team we have – we have everything we need. I would say we could have some non-Chinese staff in the shore team, but an all-Chinese sailing team is achievable, if we have enough time to prepare.”
One of the first initiatives away from the Volvo Ocean Race will be participation by Dongfeng Race Team sailors in the Solitaire URGO Le Figaro, the France-based annual unofficial world championship of solo offshore racing. Several Chinese sailors, including Horace, will prepare for the Figaro next year with the help of their Western colleagues in the team during the Volvo Ocean Race.
Dongfeng Motor Corporation is delighted with the way its involvement in the Volvo Ocean Race is stimulating the growth of what is a new sport and pastime for the Chinese.
The company has recognized that international sponsorship can achieve a number of things at the same time. Some are related directly to developing the brand and business, particularly overseas, but at the same time Dongfeng Race Team is representing China in the development of its policies like the Belt and the Road Initiative. Add to this its desire to be a responsible company then, by being involved in the development of sailing in China, it believes this is a win-win situation for Dongfeng.
The next leg of the Volvo Ocean Race – the 6,100 nautical mile stage to Auckland – sets sail from Hong Kong on February 7. So far Dongfeng Race Team has finished in third place on Leg 1 from Alicante to Lisbon and in second place in each of the three subsequent legs to Cape Town, then Melbourne and Hong Kong. As a result it currently lies four points behind race leader, the Spanish team, MAPFRE.
Overall results after Leg 4:
1. MAPFRE (Xabi Fernandez) – 33 points
2. Dongfeng Race Team (Charles Caudrelier) – 29 points
3. Vestas 11th Hour Racing – 23 points
4. Team Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag (David Witt) – 19 points
5. Team Brunel (Bouwe Bekking) – 17 points
6. team AkzoNobel (Simeon Tienpont) – 14 points
7. Turn the Tide on Plastic (Dee Caffari) – 8 points
In-Port Race Series results after Leg 4:
1. Dongfeng Race Team – 25 points
2. MAPFRE – 25 points
3. Team Brunel – 17 points
4. Team AkzoNobel – 16 points
5. Vestas 11th Hour Racing (Mark Towill) – 12 points
6. Team Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag – 9 points
7. Turn the Tide on Plastic – 7 points
Background: Racing the one design Volvo Ocean 65, the 2017-18 Volvo Ocean Race began in Alicante, Spain on October 22 2017 with the final finish in The Hague, Netherlands on June 30 2018. In total, the 11-leg race will visit 12 cities in six continents: Alicante, Lisbon, Cape Town, Melbourne, Hong Kong, Guangzhou, Auckland, Itajaí, Newport, Cardiff, Gothenburg, and The Hague.
Source: Dongfeng Race Team, Volvo Ocean Race