Published: Wednesday, 08 March 2017

Dongfeng Race Team, the Chinese entry in the 2017-18 Volvo Ocean Race, announced two of New Zealand's top offshore ocean racing sailors and a star of French solo sailing as among its squad.

Dongfeng Race Team Joined By Beyou Bannatyne And Wislang 3

(Photos: Eloi Stichelbaut, Benoit Stichelbaut / Dongfeng Race Team)

Joining the team are Stu Bannatyne, a seven-time veteran of the Volvo Ocean Race, fellow Kiwi and Volvo winner Daryl Wislang and the French soloist Jérémie Beyou who finished third in this year's Vendee Globe and has won the Solitaire du Figaro three times.

The three experienced offshore racing sailors are the first of the new Dongfeng race-crew to be confirmed and the announcement follows several months of crew trials and testing for the Chinese team, which is sponsored by Dongfeng Motor Corporation, one of the largest automobile enterprises in China.

The team, which finished third in the last Volvo Ocean Race, is now settling into its permanent base at Lorient in Brittany after delivering its newly-refitted Volvo Ocean 65 there from Lisbon.

Dongfeng Race Team Joined By Beyou Bannatyne And Wislang

Charles Caudrelier, skipper of Dongfeng Race Team, said Bannatyne, Wislang and Beyou bring a unique depth of experience from a range of offshore sailing disciplines that will combine with the younger elements in his Chinese and international squad to form a powerful racing unit.

"You could not ask for more in terms of experience and miles under the keel. In Stu and Daryl we have two of New Zealand's very best offshore racers who know the Volvo Ocean Race inside out. Jérémie may be new to the Volvo, but we are delighted to give him this opportunity and I have huge respect for what he has achieved. In a one-design fleet of Volvo Ocean 65s, having specialist Figaro sailors like him on board is invaluable."

Caudrelier revealed that Wislang, who has been involved with four previous Volvo teams and won the race last time as part of the crew of Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, will be a Watch Captain on Dongfeng. Both Beyou and Bannatyne will sail during the race, with Bannatyne to be on board for the main Southern Ocean legs.

Dongfeng Race Team Joined By Beyou Bannatyne And Wislang 2

Caudrelier added: "From my perspective, for sure it is better to have these guys on our boat – not on those of our rivals. Daryl is a proven offshore warrior; Stu has so much experience to share – especially with our younger sailors – and Jérémie is eager to learn about, what for him, is a new challenge."

Bannatyne, aged 45 and from Auckland, first sailed in the then Whitbread round-the-world race – the forerunner of the modern Volvo Ocean Race – in 1993 on board the maxi ketch New Zealand Endeavour. But as he embarks on his eighth Volvo Ocean Race campaign, with three race wins under his belt, his passion for downwind racing in the Southern Ocean is as strong as ever.

Dongfeng Race Team Joined By Beyou Bannatyne And Wislang 5

(Stu Bannatyne)

Bannatyne said: "The big thing with the Volvo Ocean Race for me is the fast downwind sailing, having no bottom mark to worry about going around, and then of course the camaraderie of the team. And I love being offshore and trying to get the best out of the boat.

"In the last race, Dongfeng Race Team really impressed me with their results and with their approach to how they competed in the race and I am looking forward to being part of that this time around.”

Wislang, 35, said that he is delighted that his "love affair" with the Volvo Ocean Race is set to continue as he seeks a second consecutive race win, this time on board Dongfeng. For him part of the attraction is the opportunity to race with Caudrelier.

Dongfeng Race Team Joined By Beyou Bannatyne And Wislang 4

(Daryl Wislang)

"I've always had a lot of time for Charles and I know what he did with Dongfeng last time and how good a skipper and team leader he is. So I am really looking forward to sailing with him – having raced against him in the last edition – and learning from him and hoping I can give him what he expects from me." 

For Beyou, aged 40, from Larmor-Plage in Brittany, Dongfeng Race Team comes as a welcome change of pace after racing alone around the world on his Open 60, Maître Coq.

"I will have to get used to being one of a team of sailors on board. It's a really exciting challenge. We have high expectations for a result in this race and we have exactly what we need to do well. I am looking forward to sailing with the team again and trying to improve to be the best in October for the start of the race."

Dongfeng Race Team Joined By Beyou Bannatyne And Wislang 6

(Jérémie Beyou)

Beyou enjoys the eclectic mix of sailors that make up the squad. "Dongfeng is an interesting team because we have people of different ages, nationalities and backgrounds - people from single-handed racing, from dinghy racing and veterans of the Volvo. There is a great spirit on board and everyone is helping each other – it's a great feeling.”

Dongfeng Race Team is aiming to build on its third place finish in the last Volvo Ocean Race. It is also committed to helping to establish the sport of offshore ocean racing in China and, as last time, its crew will include several young Chinese sailors who have been trained by the team.