Ahead of being shipped to China on Wednesday, Green Marine have now officially handed over the Volvo Ocean 65 ‘Dongfeng’ to OC Sport. On the other side of the globe in Sanya, China the Dongfeng Race Team is preparing to put Chinese athletes through their paces in the first of several sailing team selection trials.
Dongfeng has successfully completed its sea trials in the Solent, UK and was lifted out of the water this morning in preparation for shipment on the 18th of December to Hong Kong. “The sea trials and boat tests have gone really well over the past 10 days and Green Marine has done a fantastic job,” said Team Director, Bruno Dubois. “It’s a special first milestone for the Dongfeng Race Team campaign and it feels like it starts here as the team take delivery of the boat, and we begin our very exciting journey to the start line of the Volvo Ocean Race just 10 months away.” Green Marine is responsible for the complete assembly and fit out of the Volvo Ocean 65s. Over the course of a 18-week period for the boat, Green Marine assembles the primary and secondary structures, installs and fits out the interior including all electrical, hydraulic, steering and other systems, fits the keel and deck gear, and finally paints and commissions the finished yacht.
Meanwhile on the other side of the world Dongfeng Race Team is preparing for the first round of the Chinese applicants selection trials. “The first phase of the Chinese recruitment process is predominantly focused on the sailing team. In other words, finding Chinese athletes who want to take on this extraordinary challenge,” explains Dubois. “We have a team who manage the selection trials process for the UK-based Artemis Offshore Academy flying to China. They will put in place a series of tests over a period of 36 hours to test the candidates physical and mental capabilities – the nature of these tests are kept confidential so the sailors do not know what to expect and cannot prepare in anyway. What we know for sure is that they will get very little sleep! We will measure how they react, how they feel, how they adapt themselves to different and stressful situations because that’s exactly how it will be out there on the Volvo Ocean Race.”
The first round of the selection trials will last approximately two days from 8:00am Monday 16th December to the evening of Tuesday 17th December. The candidates will have little sleep during this time and will be expected to participate in team building tests, physical strength activities and mental challenges. The response to the recruitment process has exceeded expectations and 20 Chinese athletes have been selected to be trialled in what will be the first of several trials. “On paper some of them are looking very good,” said Dubois. “Physically very strong, open to learning, speaking Chinese and some English, some have been sailing at a high-level like AC45, Laser, Finn. I think we will have some good candidates and it has not been a problem to find the first 20 to take part in these trials. The key is to pick the right ones, the ones that will learn quickest and gel as a team, and I need to make sure that from now to the start of the race they become really strong and grow into as good a Volvo Ocean Race sailors as is possible in the limited time we have.”
The training programme for Dongfeng Race Team will begin in earnest once the boat has arrived in China bringing together the professional western crew and the Chinese sailors. “It is likely we will run one or two more selection trials early next year,” continued Dubois. “Our objective, come March, is to have an elite squad of 6-8 Chinese sailors. The ‘only’ thing we have left to do from there is sail from China back to Europe, effectively half of the Volvo Ocean Race course, during which the elite squad will sail on board in rotation over the legs. It’s really quite ambitious what we’re doing. But the guys need to clock up the hours, they need to spend night and day on the water, they need to experience the Southern Ocean and what it is like to round Cape Horn. If they arrive at the start in Alicante having completed this journey they will understand at least in part what they are heading for, and they won’t be complete newcomers.” The final crew line-up that will include up to three or four Chinese sailors will be announced next June.
On Monday more information about the Chinese candidates attending the first selection trials will be released.