After a first day full of information, the Zhik Americas team had us in for a dinner with members of the Dong Feng and Azko Nobel teams, which gave us a chance to meet great folks like Jean-Seb Chenier-Proteau, Dong Feng Operations Manager, and their skipper Charles Caudrelier. We chatted into the evening about their 8 months experience around the globe, and of course, their take on Zhik gear they used so far.
The next morning we had a beautiful surprise as Simeon Tienpont, skipper of Akzo Nobel and former America’s Cup winner, gave us a Q & A on how working with Zhik made total sense, and how both the Zhik dev team managed to create, improve products during the race, making the VOR a live lab resulting on new products added to the 2019 collection, and upgrades to existing Ocean Racing gear (Isotak X among other).
In the afternoon, Jean Seb , manager of the Dong Feng team had organized a tour on the boat, coupled with a visit of their headquarters.
At 5pm, we all met with Jean-Seb in front of Dong Feng headquarters at Fort-Adams. Getting to the boats involved some red tape processing, but after a few minutes we were able to access the boats dock, and start a visit aboard Dong Feng.
The VOR 60 is a probably the ultimate one-design performer, with every boat receiving the exact same kits and teams pushing their boats beyond boundaries, as the coverage allowed us to discover along those 8 months of racing. But what strikes you when you get onbard is a well thought deck, coupled with a total absence of comfort for the crews. This is barebone sailing, little or no protection, making their journey comparable to Everest expeditions repeating. Hence, the importance of good sailing gear to keep you dry, warm, ventilated as long as possible, all the while providing maximum motion range.
After leaving the boat, Jean-Seb gave Team Lukkaiiri a private peak into their Operational Headquarters, mobile structures that the Volvo Ocean Race organization sets up at each stage.
It all ended up with their traditional pre-start Thursday party with all the teams and special guests like the Harken brothers.
It was then time for farewell to the Zhik family and to those sailors who would soon cross the Atlantic for the last 3 legs of the race, Cardiff, Gotheborg and The Hague.
We left Newport the next morning, a rainy day that didn’t take anything away from the awing view of Newport, a city full of marine tradition, with ancient houses, green garden and flowery trees.
As ocean lovers and island dwellers, we felt humbled and excited at the idea of sharing our ventures, with the immediate desire to come back in the future years, and Newport, RI a fixture in our annual schedule.
We are in the last leg of the cyclonic season, which once again hit the Caribbean hard, leaving thousands of people mourning and with a blurry future. Meanwhile, there are still people refusing to accept climate changes are for real, or more cynically think they're not concerned.
Saint-François, our home in the Caribbean, is a small fishermen's town on the south-eastern tip of Grande-Terre, Guadeloupe. With the longest coastal line of all the communes, and strong easterly trade winds blowing most of the year, the place is a paradise for windsurfing, kitesurfing, and sailing.