VOR: Will Brazil be the end of Dongfeng Racing’s VOR campaign?

The rest of the fleet may be in, but Charles Caudrelier’s Volvo team is still racing, racing to get to Itajai, Brazil to step a new mast and get back on the water in time for the start of Leg 6. It’s a race against time for the team that, following an impressive string of performances earlier in the race, has a buffer of points that was cashed in to hold them in second overall after their dismasting. Just two points now separates them from third placed Team Brunel.
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All in Dongfeng Racing know that their competitive participation in the event hangs in the balance. And it’s not just getting the boat to Itajai that is the issue, as their latest report outlines.

Here’s the official word from the team on what they’re currently up against.

 Half of the shore team are in Itajai, waiting for the mast and the boat. The other half, after an epic journey across South America to get to Ushuaia, are delivering the boat to Itajai with Chinese sailors Wolf and Black. The rest of the sailors are relaxing at home ready for a crazy final few days before the restart. Last update was that the delivery team were exactly half way between Ushuaia and Itajai with 100nm to go worried they might not have enough fuel onboard. The expected time of arrival for the Volvo Ocean 65 ‘Dongfeng’ is Monday 13th April – at best.

13th April is also the expected time of arrival for the mast – at best. The mast has been flown from Dubai to Amsterdam. Today at 1900 it will be loaded onto its connecting flight from Amsterdam to São Paolo where (once it clears Brazilian customs) it will be loaded onto a truck and driven down the Brazilian coast to Itajai. Where a relieved Logistics Manager by the name of Marine Derrien will shed a small tear of relief.

However, that will just be the beginning of our race against time. Once we have the boat and the mast, there is the work that normally takes a week to do in half that time – to prepare the boat itself after the tough leg from Auckland, and to prepare, setup and tune the new mast and rigging. And at the same time make sure the sailing team have their heads focused on the next leg – to be competitive in a fleet that has just got better and better with virtually nothing to separate the top 5 anymore in terms of performance on the water.

Now… calculate the odds of everything running smoothly. As it stands we have no idea if the truckers will be willing to drive over the weekend, so best case scenario – if they do – the rig and the boat both arrive in Itajai on Monday as planned. Otherwise the rig arrives two days later and we struggle to make the In-Port. This is assuming of course, the delivery of the boat proceeds without complications.

These are just a few of the 1000s of thoughts that are running through the team’s minds right now.

‘What if’ we don’t make it?

This is a (more than) legitimate question that someone asked Bruno Dubois earlier today. He replied: “If we don’t make it? It will be the end of our project as we know it.” Bruno is a man who wears his heart on his sleeve and lives and breathes this team with a die-hard passion. He doesn’t even allow the thought to enter his head. And today no-one in Dongfeng Race Team will allow the idea that we won’t make it to the start line on time to temper their drive to make it happen.

At the end of the day when we started this project, if someone had told us that half way through the race we would still be in second place after a leg where we broke the mast and scored a penalising 8 points…we would have laughed.

We know that we were lucky to have had enough points in the bank to afford what happened to us but we can’t afford to be the victim of a technical failure again, or make any of our own mistakes on the water either. The others are knocking on our door to take our place on the podium. Getting the mast and boat to Itajai in one piece to ensure we have a chance to be on the start line is only part of our battle.

And not just the start line of the leg to Newport, USA – with the points so close, the In Port race which is a decider in terms of a tie of points in Gothenburg, has become just as important.

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