Guo Chuan - a sailor who had Irish connections is lost at sea
Former crew member in Ocean Race on Green Dragon goes missing in Pacific
Guo Chuan (right), crew-member on Irish-Chinese backed Green Dragon and the first-ever Asian participant, with skipper Ian Walker in the 2008/’09 Volvo Ocean Race. Photograph: David Branigan/Oceansport.
An apparent tragedy at sea this week has cut short an ambitious sailing career, one that counted a close connection with Ireland as an early highlight, and has become a stark reminder of the perils of short-handed racing.
Barring a miracle, Chinese sailor Guo Chuan has been lost at sea.
Less than a week into a trans-pacific record attempt on board his 97-foot trimaran, contact with the 51-year-old solo sailor was lost on Tuesday and two naval vessels were tasked by the US Coast Guard to the area north of Hawaii.
After boarding the intact vessel, there was no sign of Chuan and the sails were then lowered in advance of a recovery effort by the shore team.
Following an extensive search covering 4,600 square miles, efforts were suspended and there is little prospect of survival.
His team has suggested two scenarios that ultimately led to him falling overboard, both involving lowering the large genneker sail at sunset to make the boat safer for night sailing.
In one procedure, unclipping the personal safety line is required and loss of control of the sail could result in an overboard situation. His team says his lifejacket has a beacon fitted but the coast guard reported finding this on board the boat.
Official homeQingdaoShanghaiGiovanni Soldini
Chuan was on board Green Dragon, the Irish-Chinese co-flagged entry in the 2008/’09 Volvo Ocean Race and was the team multimedia reporter.
Although not an active racing crew-member, he was well regarded by his crew-mates and he became the first Chinese to complete a professional round the world race.
He went on to become the first Chinese to complete the Mini Transat in 2011 followed by the first Chinese to complete solo non-stop circumnavigation in a Class 40-footer in 2013 and set a world record.
In 2015, he created another world record of non-stop challenge through Arctic Ocean Northeast Passage, leading an international crew.
“In terms of being a figurehead for the team, it was really important and he was really revered in China – it’s easy to underestimate the fact that not many Chinese were travelling abroad, not as adventurers or sailors,” Green Dragon’s skipper Ian Walker told The Irish Times.
“He really was a pioneer – the pioneer of offshore sailing for China. What he did subsequently was really quite extraordinary.”
Chuan’s presence on board arose directly from the Chinese co-sponsorship of the project that saw the Green Dragon jointly named and flagged for the 39,000-mile race.
“The Green Dragon was beset by problems in terms of finance and boat speed although the campaign ended up being a very positive one,” said Walker. Italian Vincenzo Onorato’s Cookson 50 Mascalzone Latino was declared the overall winner in Malta after missing the 2015 win by nine seconds. The crew included Ireland’s Ian Moore, the former Green Dragon navigator.
Conor Fogerty’s team on BAM from Howth Yacht Club finished the Rolex Middle Sea Race in seventh place overall in Class 6 earlier this week following a five day passage in the 608-mile race.
Irish ex-pat and offshore racing veteran Barry Hurley competed on the runner-up Maltese entry Ex-Pact.