Charles Caudrelier, the skipper of Dongfeng, today names female sailing stars Carolijn Brouwer and Marie Riou as part of Dongfeng Race Team in the Volvo Ocean Race 2017-18. Brouwer and Riou are the first female crew members to be announced under new rules designed to encourage participation by women in the world's toughest fully-crewed ocean race.
Brouwer (Netherlands), 43, is a three-time Olympian, a multiple world champion and a veteran of two Volvo Ocean Races in all-women crews, first with Amer Sports Too in 2001-02 and then with Team SCA in 2014-15. Riou (France), 35, is a two-time Olympian and an outstanding dinghy racer with four world championships in the Nacra 17 class to her name alongside helm, Billy Besson.
The two women have been selected after an extensive programme of evaluation that included sailing and racing, both inshore and offshore, in Australia, Portugal and France.
Caudrelier says Dongfeng Race Team will be stronger with the addition of what he described as two exceptionally gifted women sailors.
"I chose Carolijn because she beat us many times during the last race when she helmed Team SCA in the in-port races," he said. "She has a big Olympic past which I respect and this has turned her into a very fast driver. She knows where to put the boat."
On Riou, Caudrelier again stresses the benefit of years of Olympic class racing and training. "She is strong, she has a good spirit – which is the most important thing for me – and she is used to sailing with the guys," he said. "For her the Volvo Ocean Race is a dream and, like Carolijn, Marie is focused on a strong performance."
The selection of Brouwer and Riou follows a rule change introduced by the Volvo Ocean Race to encourage teams to include women sailors who otherwise – on purely physical strength grounds - would not find a place among all-male crews.
Caudrelier is planning to use Brouwer and Riou either singly or as a pair depending on the requirements of each leg as Dongfeng makes its way around the world over eight months, starting from Alicante in Spain in October.
Brouwer, who has a six-year-old son and currently lives near Sydney, says winning the Volvo Ocean Race has been a goal for some years and she is delighted to be joining a Chinese team which she admired during the last race.
"I'm very proud to be part of the team. One of the reasons I wanted to join Dongfeng Race Team is because of the strong team spirit," she said. "I like adventures, I love challenges and I am very passionate about sailing. The Volvo Ocean Race is unique. It's the ultimate challenge physically and mentally and, because you are in a team, you get the best out of each other."
Riou, meanwhile, will be making her debut in this race. "I have wanted to take part in the Volvo Ocean Race since I was 10 years old," she said. "Although my main experience is in inshore racing I have always wanted to race offshore and for me the Volvo Ocean Race is a new adventure and the pinnacle of fully-crewed offshore racing."
Earlier this month Dongfeng Race Team revealed that Stu Bannatyne, a three-time Volvo Ocean Race winner, fellow Kiwi and Volvo winner Daryl Wislang and French solo skipper and third place finisher in this year's Vendee Globe, Jérémie Beyou have joined the squad. The team – sponsored by Dongfeng Motor Corporation, one of the largest automobile enterprises in China - is currently based in Lorient where an intensive schedule of training and testing continues.
Sailor: Carolijn Brouwer
Date of birth: July 25, 1973
Born: Leiden, Netherlands
Lives: Sydney, Australia
Previous Volvo Ocean Race participations: 2
Achievements: three-time Olympian and multiple world champion
Sailor: Marie Riou
Date of birth: August 21, 1981
Born: Plougastel-Daoulas, France
Previous Volvo Ocean Race participations: 0
Achievements: two-time Olympian and four-time world champion