Volvo Ocean Race
This sailing competition around the world is held every three years. It encompasses different stages and lasts 250 days on average. Together with the Olympic Games and the America’s Cup, this is one of the most important yachting events in the world. The most difficult sailing event for teams? That is the Volvo Ocean Race!
The original idea for this race was born in 1971. Some British sailors thought it would be a challenging concept to have a sailing race around the world. The British navy (Royal Naval Sailing Association) was interested in organizing this race. Their goal was to improve the team spirit of the British navy.
The enthusiasm was there, but the means were not. In 1972 Whitbread (a British brewery, catering and hotel group) was prepared to sponsor the race.
The first race, the “Whitbread Round the World Race” started a year later in the naval base of Portsmouth. A whopping 17 boats and 167 crew members accepted the challenge.
Thanks to the rise of technology, if became easier to follow the race all the time. Because of the media attention the race grew into one of the largest events in the world.
Since 2005, Volvo is the main sponsor and the race is known as the “Volvo Ocean Race”.
The race traditionally started in England, but since 2005 the starting point has been moved to Spain. Especially the city of Alicante is popular with the organization. The starting shot to several editions was given in this beautiful city on the Costa Blanca.
The route runs through the Atlantic Ocean southwards to the tip of Africa. Then the Antarctic Ocean is crossed towards Australia. This leg is regarded as one of the most dangerous ones. Participants are confronted with waves of over 30m (98.43 feet) high and wind speeds of up to 115 km/h. (71.5 miles/hour)
The route of the Volvo Ocean Race 2017-2018 will then continue to Asia and back to New Zealand. From there the participants will sail to South America and return to Europe via North America and the Atlantic Ocean.
A journey of a whopping 72.000 km (44,739 miles)!
The crew consists of eight sailors and a media person. Boats that have a complete female team are allowed to participate with three extra sailors.
The media person, as implied, takes care of the reporting. He or she is responsible for the images, sound and reporting of the events. Under no circumstances is he or she allowed to participate in sailing, repairing or navigating the boat.
The eight participants each have their own task. There is a skipper (= leader) who determines the strategy and who also is the first mate. The navigator advises the skipper about the weather, the dangers at sea (e.g. ice floes) and the ideal course.
The assistant skippers control the sails. Their task is to make sure they can sail optimally. The trimmers are responsible for hoisting, adjusting and lowering the sails.
All teams sail with the same boat. That ensures fair winning opportunities. The Volvo Ocean Race has been divided into legs where points can be earned. The goal is to acquire as many points as possible. The team with the highest score is the ultimate winner.
There are also harbour races, so you can also follow these live, not just through TV or computer.
About half of the eight to nine months the race lasts, will be spent at sea. Problems on board or damages that may occur on the vessel will have to be resolved while sailing.
The remaining days are either used for harbour races, for resting or for repairs and improvements on the boat.
Not for sissies
The sea can be very treacherous and history has proved this. During the first edition (1973) three people died. All victims fell overboard and were never found again.
Recently, in 2006, the Dutchman Hans Horrevoets also fell overboard. He was found again but all help came too late.
It is a long journey, where nature tests the participants to the extreme. The boat does not offer much comfort to the crew either. They live in a limited, damp surrounding without any privacy. They are also dependent on a limited food supply. In short, the Volvo Ocean Race is not just a race, it is also a physical and mental battle.