Dongfeng Race Team is the first team to officially qualify for the next edition of the Volvo Ocean Race 2014-15. Confirmation came direct from Jack Lloyd, Race Director of the Volvo Ocean Race that following the team's recent 18 day training voyage, Dongfeng Race Team has met the official qualification requirements of sailing 2,000 nautical miles non-stop with 60% of the crew members for Leg 1 onboard.
Although it is great to be able to put a 'tick' in the box for this particular milestone in the preparation for the start, the predicted challenges continue for the team as Liu Xue and Yiran Zhang have decided to step back from the opportunity of joining the final race crew.
"Obviously I'm disappointed," explained skipper Charles Caudrelier, "These are two men we hand picked who had the right attitude and the right level of experience. But the race will be unlike anything they're ever done before and I understand their choice, even though I am disappointed. It is what it is and this is the Volvo Ocean Race and if you suffer from sea sickness that you can't overcome or you feel that you're not up to the challenge, now is the time to say."
Nonetheless the performance of the four other Chinese crew - Kit, Horace, Wolf and Liu Ming - has been encouraging as they dealt with the demanding conditions on the training leg. These four will now go on to sail on board the Volvo Ocean 65 Dongfeng alongside the Western pro crew during the transatlantic from Newport, USA to Lorient, France in late May.
"We will be in full 'race mode' on the transatlantic," said Team Principal, Bruno Dubois. "And this will be another big step on the learning curve for our Chinese crew but the more we sail with them, the more we see their potential and feel convinced that for the next race and in future editions, Chinese sailors have a great future in the demanding discipline of offshore racing."
Liu Xue and Yiran Zhang will remain part of the Dongfeng Race Team programme for now inside the support team. "Being a part of Dongfeng Race Team has been incredible," said Liu Xue. "It's been an incredible experience sailing alongside the professional Western sailors but it's just not right for me. Luckily l wasn't sea sick like some of the others but I still know I have a choice to make and I no longer wish to be in the running for the final race team. I'm thankful for this rare journey I've been on and I will support the team every step of the way."
The team are now looking forward to the transatlantic that will be one of the most testing parts of the training process for the crew but will ensure that the right team are in place come October. The VO65 Dongfeng is being shipped from Hong Kong to the United States on the 22nd April, arriving around the 20th May.