Sunday, 10 May 2009

VOR: Support for Spanish Move

by Riath Al-Samarrai

"Moving to Spain is a great thing," said Kimo Worthington, the PUMA general manager.

It was a view widely held after the announcement this afternoon that the race's headquarters and start port will be in Alicante for the next three editions of the event.

The relocation from England will also see a minimum of two Spanish teams competing in each of the next three races, while initiatives are being discussed to support any syndicates that choose Alicante as their base.

It is the latest positive step to safeguard the event against the global economic situation and the dockside consensus was supportive.

"There is a lot of stuff going on at the moment and everyone has an opinion," Worthington added. "Volvo is trying to come up with cost reductions and areas to improve the race. You can never make everybody happy, but it seems like we are ahead of the curve compared to the last race. It sounds like there is still a lot of interest in the next race and that's good.

"Moving to Spain is definitely a great thing. Alicante did an awesome job and to move the offices there makes it more centralised. It's all good."

The move further strengthens the event's presence in Spain, a country which has produced two boats, two skippers, a co-skipper, and more sailors in this current race than any other country. Alicante was also the start port when the fleet set sail back in October.

"I think it is a great moment for the sport in Spain and also for sailing around the world," said Telefonica Black skipper Fernando Echavarri. "Three more starts in Alicante will make the race more known around the world and I am sure they will do a superb job. For Spanish sailors it is another great chance to establish themselves."

Telefonica Blue co-skipper Iker Martinez added: "It's something nice. Not only for the people who will be sailing in the race, but also the Spanish people, who are very passionate about the sport. For us it is a big help. The country really wants to have big events."

"We are extremely happy," said the syndicate CEO Pedro Campos. "Being a sailor and very close to the Valencia community we are very happy. It is not only because we are going to be close to home, but also because it gives stability to the race. All the sponsors can make long term plans, and that is a very good way to push the success of the race."

Green Dragon CEO Jamie Boag already has one eye on entering a team in the next race. He agreed that the move and the increased stability of the event will enhance the sponsorship search for prospective syndicates.

"I think it is great that people are looking long-term at this," he said. It's always good when there's a long-term deal put into a competition like this. It gives people solidity, security, comfort. Anything that gives security gives comfort. When we are going to boardrooms looking for sponsorship, the more concrete statements we can make, the more easy our job is.

"Alicante is a great spot, we all enjoyed being down there. Hopefully we will be down there in two-and-a-half years."

The switch in headquarters represents a shift away from England, the country where the race was created and has featured a stopover in all but the current edition of the event.

Telefonica Blue's English sailor Simon Fisher has lived in both Spain and England. He was supportive of the move but hopes to see the event back in his homeland at some stage in the future.

"Spain is very passionate about its sailing so I'm sure it will be a positive thing," he said. "We have seen the America's Cup there, the Barcelona World Race, the TP52 sailing and now they have the Volvo. It's a big sailing centre so I'm sure it's a positive step for the race.

"I'm certainly missing the fact there is no English stopover this race. It makes you feel quite nostalgic when you think of the race, think of Southampton. It's a shame but hopefully we might see some British teams in the future and with any luck a British stopover as well. Hopefully it's not the end of the Volvo story for England."

Volvo Ocean Race

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