Sewing Seeds at the VOR Academy

Published on March 9th, 2015

At the New Zealand stopover during the Volvo Ocean Race this week, the sailors make their way, in packs, through the hundreds-strong huddle of adoring fans lining the Auckland Race Village. Cameras flashing, hands clapping, crowd whooping. It was quite the Kiwi welcome. Shades on, caps on, game face on, the focus and determination in the faces of these sailors is clear to see.

But these aren’t Volvo Ocean Race sailors. Not yet, anyway. This sailor’s parade is less about legends, and more about legacy. You see, when the Volvo Ocean Race rolls into town, so does the Volvo Ocean Race Academy. “It brings youth into the sailing world,” says Academy Manager, Sergio Dominguez.

“The link between the Volvo Ocean 65 sailors and the Academy sailors is passion. Sailing isn’t only about boats. It’s about friendship, it’s about passion, and it’s about manpower and working together as a team. They’re all values that humans need in life, and if you don’t have them, boats don’t work.” He pauses. “The best way to predict the future is to create it.”

That’s why the race is determined to give these youngsters a taste of the sea life, early on in life. This weekend, the kids have been to an ISAF sailing clinic, taken part in a regatta, been given expert sailing tuition and finished it all off with a BBQ.

Local sailor Brianna Orams is just 13 years old, but she knows all about these Volvo Ocean Race heroes, after all, she lives with one. Her dad, Mark, raced in and won the 1989-90 edition, alongside Sir Peter Blake on Steinlager II. “I learned a lot about team racing in the Academy and I really enjoyed it,” she said at the end of a long weekend.

“Brianna has a dream of one day competing in the Volvo Ocean Race in an all-female team, and winning the race,” Mark added, smiling. “The seed was sown many years ago for her when she and her brother met Sir Peter.” Some 25 years after storming to victory in this race, the Kiwi skipper’s legend still looms large over this island.

“He was a pretty inspirational figure for me,” says Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing skipper Ian Walker. “A real leader, one of a very small group of people who’ve not just won, but dominated, the old Whitbread race, now Volvo Ocean Race.”

This time, it was Ian inspiring future generations. As the Brit stepped down onto the pontoon to greet the kids, their mouths dropped in awe. “Where are you all from?” he asked them, curious. “Christchurch,” comes one reply. “Oh, wow, you’ve come a long way then!”, Ian exclaimed.

A long way travelled, and a long way left to go. But as the kids left the Auckland Race Village after a suitably glitzy and glamorous prize-giving ceremony, the smiles on their faces said it all. They’ll get there.

Report by Event Media

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