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Volvo Ocean Race 2017-18

Meet Horace, the Shenzhen sailor who wants to be China’s first skipper in the Volvo Ocean Race

Chen Jinhao has become a key member of the Dongfeng Race Team and hopes to lead an all-Chinese yacht in the round-the-world competition

PUBLISHED : Friday, 02 February, 2018, 8:34am
UPDATED : Friday, 02 February, 2018, 10:21pm

Sailing changed Chen Jinhao’s destiny, and now the Volvo Ocean Race is helping him pass the torch to China’s next generation.

Having grown up by the sea in Shenzhen dreaming of becoming a sailor, it was a heart-warming moment for the 26-year-old – known affectionately as “Horace” – when his Dongfeng Race Team yacht pulled into port in Hong Kong on January 20 to be met by children from the sailing school he set up in his hometown.

The children were also there to cheer him on during Sunday’s In-Port Races, as Dongfeng took weekend honours to go joint-top of the Volvo Ocean Race leader board after four of 11 legs in the round-the-world competition.

On a team represented by six nations, bowman Horace is making a name for himself under French skipper Charles Caudrelier.

“The goal is to one day have a Chinese skipper in the Volvo Ocean Race,” said Caudrelier, who also selected Horace for six of nine legs in the 2014-15 race.

Caudrelier also has China’s Yang Jiru and Xue Liu on his team, which is owned by the Dongfeng Motor Corporation, having selected them four years ago from a pool of 30 prospective mainland sailors.

“I remember on the first day I was a bit dispirited, but then in this group I saw a few with fantastic spirit and I could feel they were very positive and motivated,” said Caudrelier, in a news conference at the Race Village at Kai Tak Runway Park this week.

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“After a few days of selection this guy [Horace] was selected and I think we are lucky to find these guys. Even on the first day we could choose them, they were such quick learners.

“It’s a long way to go but I think in a few years they will be ready. They are good sailors but they need to learn more about training, driving, navigation. Horace is keen to help.”

The 26-year-old Horace got his chance to shine when he crewed on Hong Kong-based yachtsman Frank Pong’s 77-foot yacht Jelik in 2011, and he went on to race in the America’s Cup World Series and the Extreme Sailing Series.

“I want to thank Volvo Ocean Race for giving the opportunity for Chinese sailors to participate in this competition,” said Horace.

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“I’ve grown a lot in the process. I’m very glad and fortunate to have the chance. Now I’m focused on passing the torch.

“Sailing changed my destiny, the way I live. I’m very passionate about it. I’m more concerned how I can make use of this opportunity to give something back to the Chinese kids, to promote sailing in China.

“I hope I can gain more experience. I want to be the best sailor in China, and to pass my skills and what I’ve accomplished to the next generation.”

Horace also paid tribute to Caudrelier, with the seven crews departing for leg five to Guangzhou and back to Hong Kong on Thursday.

“I’ve learned a lot from Charles,” he said. “After the last edition of the race I started to get more prepared for this one.

“I set up my own team and learned to be a leader, about how to manage and motivate the sailors through difficulties in the ocean.

“My dream is to one day have a team of all Chinese sailors competing in the Volvo Ocean Race.

“Last week we had bunch of young Chinese sailors visiting the Dongfeng team and supporting us, I hope one day some of them are taking part in this competition.”