It’s the middle of the night in Itajaí and the Race Village is closed. There is no wind, no music, no visitor.
A red boat slowly emerges from the darkness.
After breaking its mast in the middle of Leg 5, after stopping in Ushuaia, Argentina, and delivering the boat under jury rig all the way to Brazil, Dongfeng Race Team has finally arrived.
Its mast is a bit shorter, its crew a bit smaller. But tonight, the emotion and the applause from the team members who stayed onshore say it all – this late, unusual arrival is significant to the Chinese campaign.
“There were two very important things to be ready for the next leg – that the new mast and the boat arrive on time,” says Charles Caudrelier.
The French skipper stayed on land while the shore team of Graham Tourell, Guillaume Le Taud and Henry Woodhouse joined by Chinese sailors Black and Wolf (due to immigration issues) and Frenchman Benoit Hochart delivered the stricken Volvo Ocean 65.
“Today we know we’ll be ready for the next leg. Well done to the shore crew.”
Having covered approximately 2,000 nautical miles in 11 days, they look surprisingly fresh. Even Black and Wolf – they’ve been on the boat since Auckland, and 21-year-old Black is going back out for the next leg starting on Sunday, April 19.
“It was a long journey, that’s for sure,” smiles Wolf.
“It was a new experience, but the delivery was very easy compared to the race. It was very good food, a lot of fresh meat and fruits, and it was my first time sailing with our shore crew. We got a lot of sleep. We’re good.”
They worked on the boat, too, and the whole team is now ready to lift the boat out of the water, fit the new rig in – it just arrived on Sunday morning in Itajaí – and resume racing.
“We hope to be ready on Thursday and go sailing in the evening to race the In-Port on Saturday,” adds Charles.
“Breaking the mast was a difficult moment. We lost the lead of the race, we lost eight points, Abu Dhabi are now far ahead and they have a big advantage. It will be difficult to come back and we’re close in points with the boats behind – we could very well finish fifth.
“We have to stay focused. We’ll do what we’ve done in the previous legs and we’ll see what happens.
“And anything can happen.”