7 June 2014

Team's mid-Atlantic near miss with a whale

While sailing from Newport in Rhode Island to Lorient in Brittany, France, for this year's Volvo Ocean Race 2014-15, the Dongfeng Race Team's Chinese rookies came face to face in the mid-Atlantic with a whale in a taste of the kind of larger-than-life experience the Volvo Ocean Race will throw at them.

Having already sailed through a storm, and faced up to 40 knots of wind, the French skipper Charles Caudrelier said he has navigated 'one of the darkest nights I've known with absolutely no moon at all and barely any visibility'.

"We had the scariest experience to date during the night when we came so close to hitting a whale, so close we could hear it breathing.

"You can smell whales in the air but in the pitch black you can't tell where they are. You can't sense them in the water because very often when whales are at the surface, it's because they're sleeping so it's a nasty surprise for both the whale and us!"

He said "I just held my breath knowing how close we were to potential danger, but, thankfully, we didn't hit it - we just had a near miss."

The crew, including four sailors from China who have never sailed across an ocean before, are roughly halfway across the Atlantic after leaving Newport for Brittany on May 30, a trip of 2,800 nautical miles.

Sailor Kong Chen Cheng is pictured at the helm of Dongfeng Race Team during their Transatlantic journey from Newport to Lorient.

The Volvo Ocean Race 2014/15 starts on 4 October in Alicante, Spain. Galway, which previously hosted the Race in 2009 and 2012, has plans to host it again for the third time in 2020.

We picture the fleet as they power away from the start line in the Pro-Am Race in Lorient during the Volvo Ocean Race 2011/12 which finished in Galway.