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June 26, 2018

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Dongfeng skipper: It’s changed my life

FRENCHMAN Charles Caudrelier skippered Chinese yacht Dongfeng to a thrilling victory in the Volvo Ocean Race on Sunday after the closest finish in the race’s 45-year history.

Caudrelier’s team held its nerve over the final 10 miles to win a leg for the first time in the world’s most extreme around-the-world sailing race that saw seven yachts battle it out over eight months across 83,000km of seas (45,000 nautical miles).

“I can’t believe it,” said Caudrelier, dubbing his multinational crew a “dream team”.

“We had so much frustration in the last nine months, we never won a leg. But we trusted our navigation and we had a clear idea before the start of where we wanted to pass.

“What an amazing finish!” he said alongside crew members Pascal Bidegorry, Kevin Escoffier and Marie Riou of France, New Zealand duo Stu Bannatyne and Daryl Wislang, Dutchwoman Carolijn Brouwer, Briton Jack Boutell and China’s Chen Jinhao.

Dongfeng race team navigator Bidegorry correctly foresaw that “after more than 45,000 miles of racing, this is going to come down to the last 45 miles”.

And so it proved to be, with Dongfeng starting the final leg — a 970-mile sprint from Gothenburg, Sweden, to The Hague — level with Mapfre and Team Brunel. Each of the three teams led at some point but it was Dongfeng which finally came into port first after a bold call on Saturday to take a coastal route.

The victory meant the Chinese-flagged yacht closed the race on 73 points, three ahead of Spanish yacht Mapfre, with Team Brunel of the Netherlands third just a further point adrift.

“With each Volvo race, you tell yourself ‘I am stopping’ but this is the only team race where there is the best level, where you are going into the most difficult seas, when you have to navigate the most difficult conditions.”

Due to new rules which called for women to be in the crew, Riou and Brouwer became the first women to win the Volvo.

“This race has changed my life,” the 44-year-old Caudrelier, the third French captain to have won the race, said. “I have discovered human relationships that you cannot escape. You face problems, there are clashes, tensions, people have had enough.

“It has transformed me but also my relationship with my children, my family.”


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