Volvo Ocean Race newsThere will be another VOR beginning a year…

Volvo Ocean Race news

There will be another VOR beginning a year or so from now, and there’s a good chance I’ll be obsessing over that one, too. After a cut is a discussion of some of the changes that have been announced.

Race Leadership

The race will be run by a new CEO, Mark Turner, who was one of the main forces behind the Chinese/French Dongfeng team in the last race. I’m excited about that because in the last race it was Dongfeng that did the best job of sharing lots of detail about what was happening on the boat, not restricting the flow of information due to sponsor concerns nor dumbing things down for a non-sailing audience. From what I can tell that was because of Mark, and there are signs that he’ll be doing the same thing across the fleet in the next race.

The Route

The 2017-18 Volvo will not include a Middle East stopover, nor will it send racers through the Strait of Malacca on their way to China, as they did last time. Instead they’ll start with a short leg from Alicante to Lisbon, then will race south through the Atlantic to Cape Town. After that will come a real monster of a leg, from Cape Town through the Indian Ocean to Bass Strait, then north to Hong Kong. Leg 4 will send them back south to Auckland, Leg 5 will head across the southern Pacific around Cape Horn and then north to Itajaí, and Leg 6 will take them to Newport. All three of those legs are more or less the same as last time.

They’ll cross the Atlantic to a stopover in Cardiff, thence to Gothenburg, and finally will finish the race at The Hague.

Competitors sound excited about the new route. Southern Ocean sailing is what the Volvo (formerly the Whitbread) has always been about, so having more of that should be fun.

Women Competitors

One of coolest thing about the race last time was that an all-woman crew was competing head-to-head with the male teams. Sadly, Swedish paper-products company SCA has pulled out, so the sailors from Team SCA who want to build on what they did last time have had to scramble for new sponsorship.

In the last few weeks the Volvo announced new crew rules that should make it easier for them to participate in the next race. Basically, if you want to do the race with an all-male team, you’ll only be allowed 7 crewmembers. But you’ll be able to add 1 or 2 women for a total crew of 8 or 9. If you do a gender-balanced crew you can have 10 (5 and 5). Or, if you do an all-woman crew (as SCA did last time) you can have 11. Crew configurations can be changed from leg to leg.

The general view is that 7 sailors is too few to race a Volvo 65 competitively, so teams will be incentivized to include women in their crew. Without this rule change it was looking like there might not be any women sailors in the next race. With it, they’ll not only be competing, but they’ll have the chance to sail in mixed crews alongside the most-experienced Volvo sailors, which should help them in their quest to be more competitive than they were last time.

On Board Reporters (OBRs)

This time around the OBR (the single crewmember who doesn’t help sail, but just cooks and documents what’s happening on the boat) won’t be paid by the individual team sponsor, but instead will work directly for the race organizers themselves. The hope is that this will mean OBRs will be more free to tell their stories than they have been in the past. For example, in the 2014-15 there was relatively little video from the Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing boat that ended up being the overall winner. As far as I could tell it wasn’t that Matt Knighton, the ADOR OBR, was any less accomplished than the other OBRs. It was just that the team sponsor didn’t particularly feel like sharing that video, so fans rarely saw it.

Similarly, one of the more dramatic incidents in the race was when SCA had a bad knockdown on Leg 5 shortly before reaching Cape Horn and essentially stopped racing for a few days, backing way off the throttle and sailing more conservatively until they reached easier conditions in the south Atlantic. Fans could infer some of what was happening from the race’s tracker app, but there was a noticeable blackout in terms of video coming off the boat, possibly because the sponsor didn’t feel like that particular drama reflected well on their brand.

Dongfeng was the gold standard in the last race in terms of letting fans actually see what was happening on the boat. If the same philosophy is going to be applied to the whole fleet next time, it’s going to be great to watch.

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Tags: sailing, closer..., vor, volvo ocean race, sailboat racing.

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