Friday, 8 May 2009

VOR: The Volvo Ocean Race is Moving to Alicante, Spain

German Lopez, President Volvo Cars Spain, Knut Frostad CEO Volvo Ocean Race, Francisco Camps, President Region Valencia, Carlos Robles Fraga, Spanish Consul to Boston. Image copyright Rick Tomlinson/Volvo Ocean Race.

by Lizzie Green Ward

The Volvo Ocean Race is to move its headquarters from the South Coast of England to Alicante, Spain. The Mediterranean city will become both the starting port and the home of the race for the next three editions.

The agreement has been signed today in Boston between the Volvo Ocean Race and the Spanish regional government of Valencia, following extensive negotiations that began last November.

“This is a great moment for the Volvo Ocean Race,” said Knut Frostad, CEO of the race organisers. “The support and hospitality we received from Alicante as the start port of the current race left a very positive impression with us.

“One of our goals, as we’ve looked ahead to the next race, has been to establish long-term relationships with our stopover ports, and, for economic reasons, to base our headquarters in one of the stopover ports. But this only makes sense when both parties can make a long-term commitment. And that’s the partnership we are announcing today with Alicante.

“Spain has played a significant part in recent editions of the race,” Frostad continued. “Spanish sailors outnumber all other nations in the current competition and Spain has shown consistently that it understands event culture, and how to organise sporting competition. The region has demonstrated many times that it excels as a sailing competition venue.”

Francisco Camps, President of the Region of Valencia said: “The impact of hosting the start of the Volvo Ocean Race in Alicante last October was very positive for the city, the region and all of Spain. Today’s agreement means Spain will build on its status as a centre of excellence for sailing for years to come.”

Volvo Ocean Race headquarters, which has been based in Whiteley, Hampshire since 1998, will begin the process of moving to Alicante following the conclusion of the current competition at the end of June. The Volvo Ocean Race will be based in Spain by the end of this year, where its headquarters will remain for the next three editions of the race.

“There are many other elements to the partnership with Alicante,” said Knut Frostad. “These include initiatives to ensure the participation of at least two separate Spanish teams in each of the next three races.”

Significantly, the agreement will also see the construction of a race museum and interactive exhibition that celebrates the 36-year history and heritage of the race. The first phase is scheduled for completion in 2010.

“The museum and interactive exhibition is very important for us,” said Frostad. “This race has a long and storied history. Over the years, many of the very best sailors in the world have earned their reputations racing through the ‘Life at the Extreme’ conditions that characterise the Volvo Ocean Race. The museum and interactive exhibition will celebrate that heritage and provide a link between our future in Alicante and our past racing around the world.”

In addition, the port of Alicante has agreed to make itself available as a home to any of the teams in the current race after the finish in St. Petersburg at the end of June. Other benefits to new and existing teams feature in the arrangement as well.

This announcement of the start port is separate from the bidding process which was recently initiated for international stopover ports for the next edition of the race. That process will finish by the end of the first quarter of 2010.

The Volvo Ocean Race fleet is currently in Boston after completing six stages of the 10-leg race. In the midst of the current competition, the race organisers set themselves the task of developing and evolving the race through a consultation process with stakeholders, with a particular focus on cost-cutting and increasing value from participating in the race.

In October, before the start of this race, it was confirmed that Volvo would maintain its support for the race. At the previous stopover last month, in Rio de Janeiro, Knut Frostad held the first of a series of ‘roundtable’ sessions where details of the next edition of the race and the results of this consultation process are revealed. The next session is scheduled for Sunday in Boston, when more of the proposed rule changes will be explained.

The Volvo Ocean Race began life in 1973 as the Whitbread Round the World Race, when 17 teams from seven countries contested the first fully crewed race around the world. The race was subsequently run every four years and in 1998, when Volvo acquired the race, it was renamed the Volvo Ocean Race. The current edition is the third Volvo Ocean Race and finishes in St. Petersburg, Russia at the end of June.

Volvo Ocean Race

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