(Updates with quote, adds background)
By Alexander Smith
LONDON, June 24 (Reuters) - China’s Dongfeng Race Team won the Volvo Ocean Race on Sunday, the first victory for a team including women in the round-the-world marathon.
The Chinese-backed team held off its nearest competitors MAPFRE and Team Brunel to secure overall victory, with Dutch sailor Carolijn Brouwer and France’s Marie Riou crossing the line off the Hague to clinch the last leg.
Dongfeng was within sight of its rivals as they approached the finish to claim their first leg victory since leaving Alicante in Spain in October last year.
“It’s crazy, it’s been an insane race. I can’t describe how I feel. My goal was to win the race and to be the first woman to do it,” Brouwer said. “We just had to keep our cool, to keep our head together,” she added as she cuddled her young son.
Skippered by race veteran Charles Caudrelier, Dongfeng had not previously won a leg, as they battled mountainous seas in the Southern Ocean and drifted through the Doldrums in the 45,000 nautical mile race, but had been the most consistent crew among the seven competitors. The crew showed off the Chinese flag after cruising across finish line, while Brouwer lifted the Dutch colours in triumph.
“I’m not sure I have been the best skipper, but I have had the best team around me,” a tearful Caudrelier said after accepting the cup once ashore.
Dongfeng’s win also deprives two New Zealanders, Peter Burling aboard Brunel and Blair Tuke on MAPFRE, of sailing’s elusive “Triple Crown” of Olympic gold, the America’s Cup and the Volvo Ocean Race.
The win by the Chinese team in the race, which began in the 1970s and is regarded as one of the toughest in sailing because much of it is crossing the remote and hazardous Southern Ocean, is also a first for China, which has been keen to develop offshore racing.
Chinese sailors Yang Jiru “Wolf”, Chen Jinhao “Horace” and Xue Liu “Black” were all in the 12-member squad for their second Volvo Ocean Race with Dongfeng after securing a podium finish at their first attempt, alongside race veterans from France, the Netherlands, New Zealand and Australia. (Reporting by Alex Smith; Editing by Jon Boyle and David Evans)