Monday, 11 May 2009

VOR: New Stopover Format the Latest Evolution for 2011-2012 Volvo Ocean Race

by Sophie Luther

On Sunday morning at Fan Pier in Boston, Knut Frostad, the CEO of the Volvo Ocean Race, presided over the second ‘Round Table’ presentation where details of the next edition of the race are announced.

This follows the inaugural ‘Round Table’ in Rio de Janeiro last month, and comes on the heels of Thursday’s announcement of Alicante as the new start port for the next three editions and new permanent home of the race organisation’s headquarters.

The focus on Sunday remained on changes that increase value for participants in the Volvo Ocean Race. Amongst the many subjects covered, the evolution to the format of a typical race stopover schedule for the next edition of the race was particularly important.

In general, stopovers in the next edition are to be shorter and more efficient, with most of the action loaded towards the final weekend, which is when the Pro-Am Race, the In-Port Race and the leg start will all take place.

“The current stopover format, with one week between the In-Port Race and leg start, ensures the stopovers are a full week longer than they really need to be,” Frostad said. “This puts pressure on the shore crews to have the boats ready quickly for the In-Port Race, and then leaves everybody waiting for an extra week before we start the next leg.

“We think we can make it more efficient and more exciting by focusing all of the action on the final weekend of the stopover, when all of the racing will take place.”

The stopovers will be designed around a two-week format, with the ETAs for the finish of a leg comprising the first weekend, a ‘Festival of Sail’ on the middle weekend, and the Pro-Am, In-Port races and leg starts on the third weekend.

The end result will be more time for the shore crews to work on the boats, a real recuperation period for the sailors between legs, and a clear build-up to a final crescendo of racing action for the public and VIP guests; all of this in a stopover that is shorter than in the present version.

With the announcement of Alicante as the start port for the next three races, the race organisers are now turning their attention to the procurement of the remaining stopover ports. As of today, 81 ports around the world have expressed interest, demonstrated their domestic political support and are now involved in the Volvo Ocean Race stopover port bidding process. The goal is have the full race route decided and announced by the end of the first quarter of 2010.

Sunday’s presentation builds on the announcements made in Rio de Janeiro, where changes to crew numbers (one less crew, one additional crew member under 30-years of age) and sail restrictions were revealed.

“I think Volvo is doing a great job of approaching this in a professional way,” said Paul Cayard, who won the race in 1997 and skippered boats in 2001 as well as in the last edition of the race in 2005. “I know they're studying the commercial value of the race and the ports that they choose and that's the right thing to do. You have to look out for the interests of the race not only from a sailing standpoint but also from a commercial standpoint.

“It's not simple, but it sounds like they're doing the right thing and I'm sure they'll come to a good solution.”

The next ‘Round Table’ is scheduled for 31 May in Galway.

Volvo Ocean Race

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