in conversation

Bruno Dubois, Dongfeng Race Team, Team Director sits down with Shanghai Sailor for SA…
S.S: I’m sitting with Bruno Dubois, Team Director of Dongfeng Race Team here in the Hague and I’d like first of all to ask you Bruno a little about your personal background.
B.D: My personal background, I’m Belgian and emigrated to Canada in 1984, got married and had my kids but before that I sailed with the Belgian Military Team in RORC events for a full year, that was my military service for the nation (chuckle) and from there I started delivering boats a bit around the Atlantic for 2 years in order to get money to buy a Mini-Transat boat and I bought the boat and won the race in 1983 so that’s where everything starts, Quebec – St Malo, I did a lot of racing for many years then I started at North Sails pretty much after I skippered a boat called Rucanor for the Whitbread Race in 1989.
I made my sails with the sailmaker I worked with at that time then after that I moved to North Sails in 1990 so its 28 years I have been associated with North Sails so I managed to combine my career between sailing and sail making. Sail-making first and then manager after that. And I sailed with Ellen McArther and Mike Golding and I sailed Corel 45, involved with 3 America’s Cup and multiple Volvo/Whitbread projects but it’s only in 2013 when Knut Frostad and Mark Turner called me to see if I would be interested to manage the Dongfeng Race Team the first time.
Straight after that I jumped into the Groupama Team France project for the America’s Cup as Team Manager then jumped back again to Dongfeng Race Team after The Cup and I think really that the experience that I managed to take over all those years, North Sails and being in touch with the sailors and then going to America’s Cup with very small budget and very little time but I believe that the reward is now.
S.S: It’s a subject I was going to bring up a little later but at this point we had to pause the conversation as Bruno had an urgent phone call, the work of a Team Director clearly doesn’t finish when the boat crosses the final. We were talking about your experience and much of your experience has been hands on management so how do you feel when the boats leave the dock and you can have no influence whatsoever?
B.D: Well that’s the hardest part, it’s when the boat goes that I am maybe able to relax as there is not much I can do about it but by living the race the same way as a sailor it gives me, well personally I have a feeling about what is going on because I do the race the same way so I know what is happening pretty much on the boat so when it time to change something I am even better positioned so if I was there for just administration I would not have the same feeling about what is going on with the guys and be able to guide and help Charles in the same way as I did this time, for me I think it is a good way to understand or to live the race the same way, as many people in the team are doing the same when the boat goes.
S.S: That brings us on to the team. Having seen the team from fairly close in, it’s very, very tight in that everyone is ‘into it’.
B.D: Yeah and with the advantage and pros and cons, sometimes it’s tense, people are tired and then only one little word is misunderstood and suddenly blow up and the people in the shore team and ion board also but that is what makes this team a little bit different.
S.S: Family would you say?
B.D: Yeah, I had seen that already last time. It was a family because we, in July 2015 a lot of the team members got together for the start of the Transat Jacques Vabre, we went for dinner and the atmosphere was a family atmosphere, it was fantastic.
S.S: OK, so race overall, gotta be far and away the closest race in the history of the Volvo and then that last leg. What about that last leg?
B.D: Well that last leg I saw the guys leaving the dock in Gothenburg very determined to do their own race. Not doing the race by controlling Mapfre and Brunel because there were two boats. Somehow it was better. Also better to start with one point behind because we didn’t have any pressure, we had to beat them and that’s it. To beat them we had to do our own race. The moment we decide to go to the east side of the TSS along the German coast, a decision while the other one changed their mind and I think we stuck to our decision and it worked.
Sometimes there is very little difference between having success or no success like was seen in Newport but this time the wind didn’t change, nothing changed and we made it, and very close so that was very good but it would have been interesting – I’m really happy to win that leg – but it would have been interesting to finish second behind Akzonobel and to win the Volvo Ocean Race without winning any leg. That would have been fantastic. But we hadn’t won one and that was the best one to win. But it shows that consistency is super important and we were not the favourite at the start. Mapfre was the favourite then along the race Burling and Bowwe Bekking they became the second favourite and we were still underdog.
Two reasons I think because it’s a Chinese project and because we have Chinese crew and because we have French crew and because French are not seen in the Anglo Saxon world because it is an Anglo Saxon race so we are the underdog and that is pretty cool to start the last leg in that way because even though Charles put the pressure on himself, on his shoulders but consistency was important and I’m glad because that’s the way I am also. I’m a diesel, I like to run in the morning, not the evening because I am tired but I take time for me. To be continued…