Monday, 6 April 2009

VOR: Future Steps for the Volvo Ocean Race

Volvo Ocean Race CEO Knut Frostad. Image copyright Dave Kneale/Volvo Ocean Race.

by Volvo Ocean Race media

On Sunday morning, Knut Frostad, CEO of the Volvo Ocean Race, made the first of a series of presentations covering the current state of the race, and looking forward to the next edition, in 2011-12. Interested parties including sailors and team management, sponsors, ports, representatives from potential future teams and the media were in attendance.

The first order of business was an assessment of the current race; a mid-race report was distributed, showing this Volvo Ocean Race is on track to be the most widely-covered edition of the race in its 35 year history.

“As modern communications evolve, so too does the Volvo Ocean Race,” Frostad said. “For this edition we have introduced many innovations: the on board media crew member, shooting footage on board in HD, is at the core of everything we do; our mobile channel is a great success – in January the mobile site was hit every single second, for example; and I don’t think any of us anticipated the success of the Virtual Game, which will soon surpass 200 000 players, from nearly 200 countries around the world.

Highlights from the Mid-Race Report included:
• 811 677 – the number of visitors to the race village in Cochin, India
• 420 journalists from eight countries accredited in China alone
• 2 350 392 spectators in the Volvo Ocean Race villages to date
• 547 251 706 cumulative TV audience
• 319 broadcast media outlets from 55 countries taking news feeds
• 2 410 000 unique visitors to
• 180% increase in traffic to mobile site compared to last race

Attention then shifted to the next race, now significantly less than three years away. Before the start of the current race in Alicante last year, Volvo affirmed its commitment to the next Volvo Ocean Race which will start in 2011. At that time, it was decided that over the course of this race, through consultation with stakeholders, changes ahead of the next edition would be considered, and released in a timely manner. Sunday’s presentation was the first of a series where the evolution and philosophy of the Volvo Ocean Race will be revealed.

“As healthy as the race is now, we know that things are changing all the time, and the Volvo Ocean Race has to evolve if it is to remain at the pinnacle of the professional sailing world,” Frostad said.

“With our partners, the Boston Consulting Group, we’ve run extensive consultations over the past six months with teams, sailors, sponsors, and other stakeholders, to make improvements to the race. Our goal is to increase participation and get more boats into the next race. What we have come up with, I believe, are the right changes at the right time.”

In the current economic climate, increasing the value of the race is critical. Cost-cutting measures are being evaluated as are changes that will increase the return on investment to sponsors.

On Sunday, the Volvo Ocean Race announced that it has made a decision on the first of a series of changes that will affect the race, the crews, the boats and the way they are sailed. Over the coming weeks, these decisions will be translated into new Rules.

For the 2011-12 edition of the race, there will be a tighter restriction on the number of sails the teams are allowed to use. Sail inventory will be reduced by nearly 40 percent, and furling headsails will be introduced.

That in turn will make the boats easier to handle and so the crew on board has been reduced by one. It was also announced that each team will be required to have three crew members who are under 30 years of age when the race starts, compared to the current requirement for two.

These are the first of a series of changes to be made and announced over the coming months. Today, Frostad discussed the procedure in place for making these important innovations.

“These changes announced today, and the ones still to come, have come to fruition following an extensive consultation process,” he said. “And each one is measured against three criteria: to make and keep the race attractive for sailors, to reduce the cost for teams significantly, and to increase the return on investment for team sponsors. If a proposed change doesn’t measure up against one of those yardsticks, we won’t make it.”

Changes to the Rules for the race are being managed by Bill Edgerton, recently appointed as the ‘New Rules Project Manager’ along with Ken McAlpine, who has been hired as a Technical Advisor. Both men have a wealth of experience in rules management.

Finally, the proposed route for the next race was outlined. Last month The Sports Consultancy called for Expressions of Interest for stopover ports for the next race. To date, an impressive number of cities around the world have responded. Today, the full Port Procurement process was explained.

Although a route has yet to be finalised, the next edition of the race will start and finish in Europe, should have two or three less stopovers compared to the current race, and the total time for the race should be about one month shorter. It is expected that the full route for the 2011-12 race will be announced in the first quarter of 2010.

“We are hoping to build on the success of this edition of the race, which visited ports in Asia for the first time,” Frostad said. “The stopovers in India and China have added a new dimension to the sport side of the race, and have been important in terms of bringing sailing to a new audience. We want to build on this momentum in Asia next time around.”

The next presentation is scheduled to take place in Boston on May 10, during the In-Port Race weekend. There will be two further presentations before the end of the race, one in Galway (May 31) and one in Stockholm (June 22).

Volvo Ocean Race

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