Tears, Joy, History-Making…. Dongfeng Wins Leg 3, Volvo Ocean Race 2014-15

Volvo Ocean Race 2014-15 - Leg 3 arrivals  Leg three victory is my Everest – Caudrelier

There are so many ways that the Dongfeng Race Team could have lost the chance to win the light-air marathon from Abu Dhabi to Sanya in China.

Leading from the first 24 hours to the finish, 23 and a half days later, 5,403 nautical miles sailed and eight different gulfs, oceans and seas, is not necessarily the most advisable way to try and take the spoils.

In light air, especially, the leading boat is always exposed, always in danger of falling into a hole in the weather that its rivals can simply sail round and always in danger of being the first to encounter trouble – be it heavy shipping, debris in the water, an adverse current or an agonising go-slow moment rounding a headland.

Volvo Ocean Race 2014-15 - Leg 3 arrivals

Sometimes boats win long legs from the front – all the way – by banging a corner, taking a flier away from the fleet at the start and gambling that it might pay off in the long run. Think Swedish Match in leg two of the Whitbread/Volvo from Cape Town to Fremantle in 1997-‘98.

But the red boat from China that was heading to its home port on this trickiest of legs did not do that. The crew under Frenchman Charles Caudrelier, eked out a small lead at the end of the first day and then managed to hold it – out front – to complete an historic stage win, the first by a Chinese boat in the 41-year history of the Volvo Ocean Race.

The qualities on show in legs one and two, when Dongfeng finished a close second on both occasions, were to the fore on leg three – good boat speed downwind, excellent trimming and driving skills and a navigation/tactics team, of Caudrelier and fellow Frenchman Pascal Bidegorry, that never dropped the ball.

But it was not easy leading for hour upon hour through the uncertain weather of the Arabian Sea, the unpredictable impact of the wind shadow south of Sri Lanka and the Russian roulette of the virtually windless Malacca Strait – the single toughest phase for Caudrelier and Bidegorry.

No surprise then that the word “stress” was on Caudrelier’s lips as he looked back on a marvellous sustained exhibition of tactical racing that has placed Dongfeng at the top of the leaderboard after three of the race’s nine legs. No surprise too that Caudrelier, a decorated solo and multihull sailor who was part of the Groupama Volvo Ocean Race–winning crew four years ago, should describe this win as one of the very best of his career.

“For me this is like my Everest,” he said after all the celebrations on the dockside in China had finished. “Winning a leg of the Volvo Ocean Race as a skipper is something I never imagined could have happened to me even a year ago. For sure, compared to the Groupama Sailing Team, I know how much energy, how much experience we had – and we had a faster boat than our rivals – and even then it was hard to win a leg. So to do it on a one-design boat with the Chinese aspect of our team, is a dream for me. It was my goal – I will admit that – but I didn’t think we would achieve it so quickly.”

Like others in this unique outfit, Caudrelier quickly moved on to underline the main purpose of the Dongfeng Race Team sailing project. It is clear that winning a leg of the Volvo Ocean Race – even into Sanya – will be worth very little in the long run to Caudrelier and the campaign’s managers if this does not help to stimulate the roots of offshore sailing in China.

“If we even win the race but there is no more offshore sailing in China afterwards, then the project will have done well but we will have failed in our longer term objective,” said Caudrelier who hopes to sail with his newly-blooded Chinese sailors in future events and looks forward to more Chinese-sponsored and crewed entries in the next Volvo Ocean Race.

Caudrelier touched there on the subject of winning – winning the race overall. This was an absurd proposition for Dongfeng at the start, given its mission to include inexperienced young Chinese sailors on every leg of the race. On this occasion the team on board included the shore team expert Chen Ying Kit and pitman Liu Xue (Black).

But there is no getting away from the fact that the red boat representing China is now seriously in the mix for one of the top-two podium places – it’s principal rivals being Ian Walker’s pre-race favourite, Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, which is one point behind in second place overall and Bouwe Bekking’s Team Brunel, a further three points back in third.

Caudrelier is not rushing ahead though. “My last experience of the race reminds me that this is only leg three,” he said. “There are nine legs in the race and things can change and we have to last the course. It is very easy to come fifth in any leg – Brunel, Mapfre (skippered by Xabi Fernandez) and Abu Dhabi are really close to us in performance and Alvimedica (Charlie Enright) is improving with every leg. So the differences are very small and maybe we have been lucky – so far.”

Caudrelier had an interesting challenge when he took on the job of skipper of the Dongfeng team. He had to choose some experienced offshore professionals to form the core of his crew; he had to help select and then train up some Chinese newcomers to the sport; and then he had to ensure that this unprecedented mix, that spans distant cultures, gelled together to form a unit that could survive the pressure of high level competitive racing in one-design boats for days on end.

The charming Frenchman remains most proud of the choices he made in his core team – people like Bidegorry, Kevin Escoffier (trimmer, driver and technical guru) and Thomas Rouxell (trimmer and driver) – and getting them to work so well together. “I think what I did best in this project was to choose my guys,” he said. “A lot of people thought they would not be a very good team because they had not done a Volvo Ocean Race before – they asked who are these guys? Why don’t you take some sailors from Groupama? I chose them because I trust them and this is the most important thing and because they trust me.”

“Thomas is a really fantastic trimmer and driver – he is always there to help, Kevin is doing everything on board and Pascal and I work well together on navigation and tactics. We have already worked a lot together and maybe that is key for the team. We know each other, we know how we think and Pascal is doing a fantastic job.”

Caudrelier name-checked all the others on board, singling out the Chinese for their unfailing enthusiasm for the task and the rookie Australian/English solo sailor Jack Bouttell, a product of the Cowes-based Artemis Offshore Academy programme that trains young sailors in the art of solo ocean racing. “He did a good job,” summarized Caudrelier. “He was good. For a 24-year-old, he drove very well and he is strong.”

Hong Kong’s Cheng Ying-kit was part of the half Chinese half Western crew

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This Week @ The AIA Great European Carnival

The AIA Great European Carnival

Star Performances, Live Entertainment and Community Events

The AIA Great European Carnival have announced an exciting schedule of entertainment, community engagement activities, and special guest performances that will take place over the coming weeks until the Carnival closes on February 22. The Carnival’s Live Stage will be the venue for many of the appearances which will range from professional, to youth group and school performances.

Our aim has been to make the carnival and the Live Stage venue accessible to the entire Hong Kong Community, and in partnership with our Title Sponsor AIA, we are proud to provide an additional element of fun and entertainment to our event,” said Michael Denmark, CEO of The Great European Carnival.

Many different groups have been given the opportunity to showcase their talents and we will witness a wide variety of entertainment from theatrical to dance and drama, Rock, Jazz and Folk. We want to see both seasoned performers as well as the stars of tomorrow. With performances in English, Cantonese and Mandarin, there is something for everyone in the Hong Kong public to enjoy,” added Mr Denmark.

A preview of some of the Performances:

Puss In Boots – Presented by The Hong Kong Players
The Hong Kong Players perform a traditional Christmas pantomime every year and have done so in Hong Kong for more than 50 years. Last year’s pantomime was Puss in Boots. The show’s setting is London: The once great city is in a sorry state: the bumbling Mayor Boris can’t keep control and the evil Queen of the Rats and her vermin followers are taking control. The only hope comes from an ancient prophesy says that when London is at it’s lowest ebb, an innocent stranger will arrive in town and save the day. His arrival will be signalled by the tolling of the bells. It’s up to our hero Puss in Boots to find this stranger and save London. Puss is joined in the fight to save the city by the very beautiful Alice, and the unstoppable great Dame, Sherry Trifle. Will Puss and Alice find the new mayor in time? Will Dame Trifle’s soufflé rise? Will the good guys triumph over the evil rats?

Puss in Boots
When: 2pm, 31 January, 2015; 4pm, 6pm, 1 February, 2015
Where: The Community Stage
How much: Free

Shelter Skelter – Presented by Shelterbox Charity
Taking place on January 31 from 4pm onwards, the Shelter Skelter is a line-up of some of Hong Kong’s best rock bands, brought together by ShelterBox, a Hong Kong Based charity that provides emergency shelter and vital supplies to support communities around the world overwhelmed by disaster and humanitarian crisis. Bands include The Bollands, Thinking Outloud, Shotgun Politics, LOGO, Sheperds the Weak, and the After Party. The aim of the day is to enjoy some of the best local music Hong Kong has to offer and raise awareness for this wonderful charity.

Shelter Skelter
When: 4pm, 31 January, 2015
Where: The Community Stage
How much: Free

VS Music Indie Festival
The VS Music Indie Festival will take place on Saturday 7 February and Sunday 8 February from 4pm until late. Sponsored by VS Music, the Indie music festival will feature up and coming performers from Hong Kong and Taiwan. Included in the line-up is Hey Rachel, Merry Go Round, Tri-dueces, Jabin Law, and Gravity Altestra.

VS Music Indie Festival
When: 7-8 February, 2015
Where: The Community Stage
How much: Free

Youth Performance Groups
Hong Kong youngsters are also given the opportunity to shine on the Carnival’s live stage with a number of song and dance performance groups treading the boards during the matinee shows (between 12noon-3pm) on the weekends. Confirmed already are

31 January – Twinkle Dance Company
1 February – Isla School of Dance
7 February – Island Dance
15 February – The Island Glee Club

The Welsh Male Voice Choir
The Welsh Male Voice choir will sing a selection of Valentine’s themed songs on Sunday the 15th of February at 6pm. The choir was started in 1978 by a small group of expatriates in Hong Kong and now includes some 70 members from a dozen different nations. Over the years they have performed on conventional and unconventional stages at home and overseas. An entirely amateur group, many of their performances are for charity.

The Welsh Male Voice Choir
When: 6pm, 15 February, 2015
Where: The Community Stage
How much: Free

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The 1975 @ The Vine Centre – 7:30pm, 27 January, 2015

The 1975 @ The Vine - 8pm, 27 January, 2015

English indie rock band The 1975 return to Hong Kong for their second gig. Formed in Manchester in 2012 the group which consists of Matt Healy (vocals, guitar), Adam Hann (guitar), George Daniel (drums, backing vocals) and Ross MacDonald (bass) have been playing music together since 2004. As The 1975 they have released four Eps: Facedown (2012), Sex (2013), Music for Cars (2013) and IV (2013) ; a self-titled debut album which debuted at No. 1 in the UK Albums Chart on 8 September 2013 and a number of singles.

The 1975
Support: Chochukmo
When: 8pm, 27 January, 2015
Where: The Vine Centre
How much: $590

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Match Report: HKCC Babes 7–0 CWB Phoenix

Match Report: HKCC Babes 7–0 CWB Phoenix

Ten seconds before kick-off at Aberdeen Sports Ground on Saturday evening and two thoughts are running through a player’s head: (1) Causeway Bay Phoenix (the opposition, in pink and blue stripes, comprehensive winners at the last fixture in October) are incredibly strong in the ruck and counter at pace and (2) don’t let it happen. HKCC Babes launch the ball high and wide. Thoughts stop; training kicks in. Run. White shirts flood the Causeway Bay half, the first hit connects and it’s good. Causeway Bay reset, probe left, try right, find no forward momentum against an onslaught of tackles. These are full, flying, wheeling tackles, fingertips connecting to pink jerseys and refusing to let go. Causeway Bay are pinned in their own half. Babes attack with aggressive runs breaking though lines of defence but can’t quite find the fourth or fifth phases needed to make it count. The referee intervenes, blowing against HKCC for a series of ruck infringements – hands on the ball on the ground, not rolling away, coming in from the side. Mainly down to exuberance or lack of experience – sweet relief to Phoenix. They smartly kick for position.

Line out. Pause, lift, release. That split second of confusion after a play, where’s the ball? Realise white shirts have shot up fast and pinned it down. Rejoice. Re-join the line. But Causeway Bay kick clear four times in quick succession to march up the field. At times like these, HKCC Babes have looked vulnerable in the past, a ragged defensive line. Not today. A streak of white sets determinedly across the field, players holding position. Approach as a line, retreat as a line. Tackle after tackle goes in; some of the smallest players in the squad hauling down the opposition with huge efforts. Tackle. Release. Roll away. Re-join the line. HKCC stands firm, even as the Causeway Bay scrum works well to disrupt the pack. Nearly 10 minutes of pressure in the Babes’ 22 and then, HKCC wins a scrum and the fly half kicks for touch; It’s halftime. Breathe. It’s still 0-0.

Kick-off is caught cleanly and the second half begins, HKCC in possession and determined. Determined not to let the shirt, or each other, down. Substitutes – debutants, those returning from injury, some probably still really injured – flit in seamlessly. There’s shouting on the sidelines, huge support in the ground; inaudible, but invaluable. It’s dark now, floodlights illuminating the pain on the pitch: tackle, release, roll away, repeat. HKCC stop giving up penalties quite so cheaply, discipline installed by a vocal captain who leads by example, firm on the ball. The backs, strung wide across the pitch, demand the ball more loudly. And this is all it takes, five or six minutes of controlled possession, a sudden streak of white from ten yards out to under the left post. A try! Fireworks! Seriously, actual fireworks, sparking in the distance with impeccable timing as the conversion is taken cleanly. Thanks Ocean Park!

Causeway Bay restart and reassert their game. Passing it wide, using their pace. Once again, kicking for territory. And now they’ve something to prove. But HKCC give up no weakness and cede no ground. Tackle, release, roll away. Nine minutes remain. There’s hurting, there’s mud, there are flashes of pink and blue attempting to barge through, and then there’s more pain, and more mud. Counter attacks are exchanged, there’s no time for a gasping recovery. Even the supporters are breathless. And then, the referee, “last play”. The HKCC scrum packs down; the front row is in agony, the second row on its third patched-up incarnation, the back-row eager and ready. The backs are able to do little but wait. The scrum half and fly half share a look – they have just one more job to do.

And then it’s done. Kicked out of play. All over, bar the hugs, the tears, the celebrations, the beer and, later, the pain. And, as always, bruised hands shaken between each and every participant, and thanks given to the referee. Leighton Asia HKCC Babes 7 – SCAA Children’s Cancer Foundation Causeway Bay Phoenix 0. All that fuss, you might question, for a middle-of-the-table, run-of-the-mill game? For a game settled by one measly try? Try telling that to anyone who was there, to anyone on that winning team. That’s rugby.

HKCC Babes:
Carolyn Champion (c), Cheryl Gourley, Jo Harvey, Lauren Petersen, Lainie Man, Rosie Wright, Emily Tuck, Sarah Higgins, Lynda Nazer, Harriet Jamieson, Christy Ma, Lucy Thomson, Tinley Wong, Steph Zhang, Wendy Sham
Substitutes:
Joan Yip, Ellie Storey, Jess Gilbert, Brenda Chan, Kirsty Reid, Serene Yee
Coach:
Darren Cartlidge

Tries: Rosie Wright
Conversions: Harriett Jamieson

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