CHANGES: Volvo Ocean Race Continues to Evolve

Published on April 1st, 2013

It has just been announced that for the next edition of the Volvo Ocean Race, airbags on the wheels will be mandatory. “This is a sensible move,” commented a spokesperson at Volvo headquarters. “All our cars have multiple airbags and our boats should too. This is the pinnacle of sailing with the world’s best sailors and we can’t afford to have these people going through a steering wheel and hurting themselves. Additionally, our legal advisors have also directed us toward this decision.” Airbags are also being considered for the galley, heads and crew bunks.

The more shocking announcement came when it was revealed the route for the 2014/15 Volvo Ocean Race would be dramatically changed. In an effort to counter criticism that the race had become soft, the new route will tackle the world longitudinally, rather than latitudinally as is the current case.

The new course envisages a start in mid-Atlantic, possibly Bermuda or the Azores, with the yachts heading immediately north using either the northwest passage or the northern sea route (sometimes called the north east passage)to pass as close to the north pole as possible before exiting into the Pacific by way of the Bering Sea, and completing a north-south crossing of that ocean, and re-entering the Atlantic between the Cape of Good Hope and Cape Horn and finishing back at the starting point.

“Top to bottom, rather than west to east,” is how Knut Forstad, Volvo Ocean race CEO, put it when Scuttlebutt caught up with him in his Alicante headquarters recently. “Climate change has made this new route viable if we start in late summer. We are very excited about the prospect of a race that will give skippers the option to leave each Pole either to port or starboard.”

“Mon Dieu” was 2011/12 winning skipper Franck Cammas’ reaction when he heard the news. “This is the most innovative development in the history of circumnavigation. I look forward to a French team being the first yet again.”

Farr Yacht Design, designers of the Volvo Ocean 65 were somewhat more circumspect about the announcement. “We have to look again at the bow sections and canting keels,” said Farr’s senior naval architect Britt Ward. “We will have to build in the ability to withstand encounters with ice.”

Three-time Volvo Ocean Race veteran Ken Read, who only recently declared “not again” may be tempted back by the new route. “As a Boston University collegiate sailor I am well used to having to break the ice to go sailing.”

Within hours of the Volvo had received offers from Vladivostok and Anchorage as potential stopover ports.

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