Charles Caudrelier: The winning moves

Published on June 28th, 2018

On June 24 in the Dutch port of The Hague, Dongfeng Race Team became the first Chinese-flagged team to win the Volvo Ocean Race. It was a who-beat-who in the final leg to decide the overall trophy, and with just 50 miles to go Dongfeng was trailing rivals Team Brunel and MAPFRE

But its French skipper Charles Caudrelier and French navigator Pascal Bidégorry had chosen a different route from the others which would turn those final miles into a thrilling finish. New York Times reporter Christopher Clarey caught up with Charles … here’s an excerpt:

Split last night at 23:14 UTC

So how risky was that coastal route?

From the start, we were convinced we needed to go that way. We looked at it again with the latest information. There were two reasons not to go offshore. There was a big risk of not having any wind at some stage, which did not turn out to be the case. And the other reason was that although it was 10 miles longer to take the coastal route, with all the jibing the other teams had to do they must have been the ones who ended sailing 10 miles more. And that’s where they lost it.

From our perspective, they were the ones making the risky choice, not us. And when we chose to head toward the coast, our navigator was convinced everyone would come with us. But they did not. We knew we’d be far behind at first, so we certainly were stressed out. But I did the calculations with my computer and realized we had a good chance to be in front by the end. Even then, I kept thinking we might snag a buoy or break something until the very end. We’ve had so much go wrong in this race.

With all the disappointments for your team in this race, how much were you doubting yourself?

Of course there were doubts. We had nine months of frustration where we could just not quite finish off what we started. In Newport, we could have imploded as a team, because we were first the whole way almost and then finished fourth and missed an opportunity to really take command of the race. But the team stayed really unified.

It’s still an adventure that can turn deadly. This race was a reminder with British sailor John Fisher being lost overboard in the Southern Ocean.

It is rarer and rarer, because we are more and more professional and better equipped, but it will always happen. I have seen very few in my career, and it’s always very painful. I compare it to mountain climbers. I have a lot of friends who are guides, and the mountains kill people every year, and that risk is also part of what attracts people. It’s the natural world that frightens you but also attracts you. It’s dramatic what happened in this race, but it will sadly happen again. You cannot fool yourself. This is an extreme environment.

Complete report… click here.

Schedule: While the offshore legs have concluded, the seven teams will meet one last time for the final In-Port Race on June 30 in The Hague, NED. While the In-Port Race Series is a separate event, it will be used to break the tie on the overall race leaderboard between Turn the Tide on Plastic and Team Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag.

Race detailsTrackerScoreboardRace routeFacebookYouTube

Leg 11 – Final Results
1. Dongfeng Race Team (CHN), Charles Caudrelier (FRA), 3 days, 3 hours, 22 minutes, 32 seconds
2. Team AkzoNobel (NED), Simeon Tienpont (NED), 3 days, 3 hours, 38 minutes, 31 seconds
3. MAPFRE (ESP), Xabi Fernández (ESP), 3 days, 3 hours, 39 minutes, 25 seconds
4. Team Brunel (NED), Bouwe Bekking (NED), 3 days, 3 hours, 45 minutes, 52 seconds
5. Turn the Tide on Plastic (POR), Dee Caffari (GBR), 3 days, 3 hours, 56 minutes, 56 seconds
6. Team Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag (HKG), David Witt (AUS), 3 days, 4 hours, 01 minutes, 32 seconds
7. Vestas 11th Hour Racing (DEN/USA), Charlie Enright (USA), 3 days, 4 hours, 05 minutes, 36 seconds

Overall Results (after 11 of 11 legs)
1. Dongfeng Race Team (CHN), Charles Caudrelier (FRA), 73 points
2. MAPFRE (ESP), Xabi Fernández (ESP), 70
3. Team Brunel (NED), Bouwe Bekking (NED), 69
4. Team AkzoNobel (NED), Simeon Tienpont (NED), 59
5. Vestas 11th Hour Racing (DEN/USA), Charlie Enright (USA), 39
6. Team Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag (HKG), David Witt (AUS), 32
7. Turn the Tide on Plastic (POR), Dee Caffari (GBR), 32

NOTE: The In-Port Race Series is a separate event, but should there be a tie on the overall race leaderboard at the end of the offshore legs, the In-Port Race Series standings will be used to break the tie.

Overall In-Port Race Results (after 10 of 11 races)
1. MAPFRE (ESP), Xabi Fernández (ESP), 61 points
2. Dongfeng Race Team (CHN), Charles Caudrelier (FRA), 50
3. Team AkzoNobel (NED), Simeon Tienpont (NED), 45
4. Team Brunel (NED), Bouwe Bekking (NED), 43
5. Vestas 11th Hour Racing (DEN/USA), Charlie Enright (USA), 33
6. Team Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag (HKG), David Witt (AUS), 24
7. Turn the Tide on Plastic (POR), Dee Caffari (GBR), 21


The race course for Leg 11 was revised prior to the start, adjusting the length to 963.4nm to ensure fan-friendly arrival times along the route and finish.

After the start on June 21, the boats were sent west out of the islets dotting the entrance to Gothenburg before turning north to head to a turning mark just off the coast of Norway. Then, it’s a dive south to round a mark near the Danish city of Aarhus, followed by a return north around the top of Denmark before racing south to The Hague to the finish on June 24.

For crew list… click here.

2017-18 Edition: Entered Teams – Skippers
Team AkzoNobel (NED), Simeon Tienpont (NED)
Dongfeng Race Team (CHN), Charles Caudrelier (FRA)
MAPFRE (ESP), Xabi Fernández (ESP)
Vestas 11th Hour Racing (DEN/USA), Charlie Enright (USA)
Team Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag (HKG), David Witt (AUS)
Turn the Tide on Plastic (POR), Dee Caffari (GBR)
Team Brunel (NED), Bouwe Bekking (NED)

Background: Racing the one design Volvo Ocean 65, the 2017-18 Volvo Ocean Race begins 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. A maximum of eight teams will compete.

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