Dongfeng Race Team is the third entry so far to announce its participation in the 12th edition of the race in 2014-15. Team Director Bruno Dubois announced the launch of the new campaign in the Hubei province city of Wuhan on Wednesday.
The team will represent China and will have the interests of Chinese sailing at its core with a significant number of Chinese in the final race crew as well as its support team.
Huang Gang, General Manager of Dongfeng Commercial Vehicle Company, said: "Dongfeng Commercial Vehicle has become an important partner for the Volvo Ocean Race, which is an internationally renowned sailing event. This is also a key step in DFCV's global marketing strategy."
OC Sport, which will run all aspects of the campaign, is one of the most respected companies in the sport of sailing and responsible for the successful Extreme Sailing Series as well as numerous race campaigns over the past 15 years - including those of record-breaking British female sailor, Dame Ellen MacArthur.
It is, however, the first time that OC Sport and its Executive Chairman, Mark Turner, has been involved in running a Volvo Ocean Race campaign and so fulfils a long-standing ambition for him, and for Team Director Bruno Dubois, who both competed in the 1989-90 race.
“We are aiming for a successful race entry with a Chinese team, not just a successful entry – this is an absolute at the heart of this very exciting and challenging project,” said Turner.
Dongfeng Race Team follow Team Sanya (2011-12) and Green Dragon (2008-09) as the third Chinese entry in the race’s 40-year history, the latter a joint-entry with Ireland.
Two Chinese sailors have previously participated in the Volvo Ocean Race – media crew member Guo Chuan in 2008-09 on Green Dragon and “Tiger” Teng Jianghe in 2011-12 on Team Sanya, predating China’s sailing success in the London 2012 Olympics with Xu Lijia winning gold in the women’s laser radial.
But this project, and the planned establishment of an academy, has the potential to provide a major boost to the development of professional, and indeed all types, of sailing in China.
Volvo Ocean Race CEO Knut Frostad said on Wednesday that he expected Dongfeng Race Team to be a real contender. “I know there is a Chinese proverb saying: ‘Everything is ready and all that we need is an east wind’. Now we have the support from DFCV and Dongfeng means “east wind” in Mandarin.
“Dongfeng Race Team will be sailing in our new One-Design Volvo Ocean 65 like the rest of the fleet which means they will have exactly the same boat and competitive opportunities as anyone in the race, and they will be one of the first teams on the water,” he told reporters.
Seven Volvo Ocean 65 boats are currently being constructed in readiness for the next race.
“The team will include a significant number of Chinese sailors and the search begins now to find the best in the country,” added Frostad. “They are sure to be the subject of huge media interest in China as Guo and Tiger were before them.”
Team Director Bruno Dubois highlighted the initial focus of the campaign. “Our priority is the recruitment and training of the Chinese sailors. This is very clearly the biggest challenge we have – to condense many years of experience of the average Volvo Ocean Race crew into just 10 months.
“But equally this process is at the heart of the project; we want to leave a real legacy that will both motivate the Chinese to want to embrace the sport of sailing, and be able to develop the talent so that, ultimately, a future campaign could be 100% Chinese.”
It had already been revealed earlier this year that the next race would again feature a stopover in China in the port of Sanya. The city in the Hainan Island province successfully hosted the event in 2011-2012, following Qingdao who became the first Chinese hosts in the previous edition of 2008-09.
Team website: www.dongfengraceteam.cn/team/