Chinese sailors set to spend Chinese New Year at sea Volvo Ocean Race
The whirlwind of travel surrounding the Chinese New Year has begun and Chinese people across the world are making the important journey home to their families. However, there are two Chinese men for whom heading home to celebrate isn’t an option…
Instead Chen Jin Hao and Yang Jiru will be spending the most important time of the year racing across the Pacific Ocean in one of the world’s toughest ocean races, thousands of miles from land and with a different sort of family.
They say a single pair of chopsticks carries thousands of years of Chinese culture and emotions. Unfortunately there are no chopsticks onboard the 65ft racing boat Dongfeng, only sporks, a combination of a spoon and a fork. Because no matter how skilled you are at using chopsticks, crashing through waves at 16 knots (30kph) you barely manage to keep your balance, let alone craftily eat freeze dried food with chopsticks.
Perhaps you are reading this, unaware why Chinese New Year is such a big deal. That’s fair enough, it’s something the western world is aware of but perhaps not familiar with so let us explain.
Beside the traditions of dumplings, fireworks and cash gifts in red envelopes (from the elderly to the young), Chinese New Year is the one time of the year to spend with your family. If grandchildren travel or live away from home, then grandparents and parents will wait until Chinese New Year to see them again. If you miss Chinese New Year with your family we’ve been told it’s that familiar feeling of missing out. A bit like not being at your own birthday party where all your favourite people are waiting for you.
But after speaking to Horace and Wolf, we understand that even it’s about sacrifice. “This race is my dream and we knew from the beginning it means making sacrifices,” says Horace. “Every Chinese New Year we make a wish and my wish is to speak to my family because even though I am happy out here, I think they’d like to hear from me.”
“I prepared two pairs of red socks (Chinese tradition) for me and Horace. We are Chinese even we are not at home or not in China we still need to remember this is one of the most important days of the year, and our tradition is to wear something red, so Horace and I will wear the red socks and that is our way to celebrate,” says Wolf. “It’s been a really tough leg for us so far so I’m not sure if the others will be in the mood to celebrate but hopefully we can convince them.”
Little do Horace and Wolf know that red socks have an importance in New Zealand too – the destination of Dongfeng right now. The tragically deceased Sir Peter Blake, winner of the Whitbread (know Volvo Ocean Race) in 1989-90, with 6 out of 6 leg wins on his maxi ketch Steinlager 2, as well as the America’s Cup in 1995 and 2000. ‘Blakey’ always wore red socks to bring the team good luck – and thousands of pairs were sold during the 1995 Cup as the country got behind Team New Zealand. So red socks mean a lot more to sailors, especially Kiwi ones, than just Chinese New Year!
We look forward to seeing how the westerners of Dongfeng Race Team embrace Chinese New Year traditions (as much as being on a 65ft racing yacht will allow).
by Amy Monkman