Dongfeng Race Team finished first in the Tour de Belle-Ile this weekend – with a little help from some very special guests onboard.
Skipper Charles Caudrelier lined up with his full squad for the 2017-18 edition, plus Vendée Globe 2016-17 winner as skipper of Banque Populaire Armel Le Cléac'h and Thomas Coville, skipper of Sodebo Ultim' and solo round the world record holder on a multihull.
The international crew featuring the likes of Daryl Wislang, Marie Riou, Carolijn Brouwer, Kevin Escoffier and Jack Bouttell, set sail in the sunshine and began a perfect day of racing in strong winds, crossing the line as the leading monohull entry.
Skipper Charles revealed that the event was the perfect preparation for professional sport's toughest test of teamwork, which begins in just under six months' time.
“We spent a dream day together circumnavigating Belle-Ile with a little breeze but not too much, as well as a fantastic team," he explained.
"We had some nice, competent guests and it was fun to share our ‘Dongfeng world’ with the sailors. Thomas is familiar with the Volvo Ocean Race, as we won it together in 2012. Armel is more used to single-handed racing and I think he enjoyed sailing in crewed configuration and just focusing on the navigation.
He continued that the sailing was a welcome break from the strenuous on shore gym and planning work that the team has been undertaking at their base in Lorient, France: "It was very relaxed, but also good training, as you always learn something when you’re at sea.”
You really get the sense that there’s a superb understanding among Charles’ entourage on board Dongfeng and that’s essential for the Volvo Ocean RaceArmel Le Cléac'h
Armel Le Cléac’h, who recently won the Vendée Globe – the most extreme single-handed race around the world – added: “It’s the first time I’ve been sailing in competition mode again since the finish of the Vendée Globe and it was a friendly way to get back into it, in ideal conditions with no pressure.
"We had a great laugh and when you laugh it’s a sure sign that it’s going well. You really get the sense that there’s a superb understanding among Charles’ entourage on board Dongfeng and that’s essential for the Volvo Ocean Race. They’re all talented and the mix of nationalities and sexes, French and Anglo-Saxon guys and girls, really works and they clearly hit it off.”
Coville, who knows the Volvo Ocean Race well having lifted the trophy as part of the victorious Groupama crew in 2011-12, added: “Charles and I have some very fond memories of the Volvo Ocean Race, which we won with Franck Cammas. I was right back in that atmosphere today. It’s hard work, but after the manoeuveres there’s always time for a little joke.
"I’m impressed by the pairing made up of Marie Riou and Carolijn Brouwer, who hold interesting and important positions in the crew. For his part, Charles is the number cruncher and taps them out perfectly. On top of that you have the rigour of the Anglo-Saxons, who work with the same clockwork precision on the Tour de Belle-Ile as they will at the start of the Volvo Ocean Race. They’re real pros and I’m a fan of this attitude. Thanks for the invitation Charles!”