Bouwe Bekking, a Volvo “addict”

Published on March 28th, 2016

Knut Frostad used to say that the Volvo Ocean Race was like an addiction and if that’s the case then we should pity Bouwe Bekking as a pretty hopeless case. Here he is a few minutes after The Hague has been announced as the final stop for the 2017-18 race and the man is grinning from ear to ear like a kid with a free run in the candy store.

He may have lapped the globe seven times with the race, a record-equaling feat, by the way, but Bekking is already counting the days before he has the chance of another dip into his favorite sweetie jar from October next year.

“It’s fantastic news,” he says, licking his lips at the prospect of victory in The Hague in June 2018. “But, hey, you can’t start until you have the money together. It’s one step at a time.” It’s a rare note of caution from a man who delights in voicing exactly what is on his mind without letting little matters like diplomacy or political correctness get in his way.

Volvo Ocean Race sailors, and especially skippers, are usually a fairly tight-lipped bunch, sticking rigidly to the company line in dealings with the media. Bekking breaks that mould into 1,000 pieces by saying whatever the hell he likes, sending the sailing press into raptures and leaving PR guys ducking for cover.

Race communications crew still remember with a blush his comments at the outset of the last race in October 2014 when he told a packed Alicante press conference that he didn’t care too much for the in-port race series.

The sailing community, however, almost universally likes him. You just can’t help yourself, Bouwe has star quality and charm in equal measure when he’s minded to turn it on which is most of the time in my experience. He’s also great with sponsors and VIP guests who recognize the real deal, an authentic seaman, when they see it.

Hell, if I had the money, I’d spend it on Bouwe. He’ll turn 53 this summer, but the Dutch skipper of Team Brunel from the 2014-15 looks as fit and boyishly enthusiastic as ever. He’s tanned too, after a very successful winter sailing with 60 per cent of his Brunel crew in the Caribbean.

He turns serious, briefly, when he talks about an eighth tilt at the one serious piece of sailing silverware, which has eluded him in a 30-year plus stellar career. Three times he has finished runner-up in the Volvo Ocean Race, including last time with a hand-picked crew with Team Brunel.

And even for a guy ready to see the funny side of anything, that’s getting beyond a bloody joke. “I have two ambitions: to skipper it again and, of course, to win it,” he says. “In 2014-15 we had a very good result, a result I’m proud of, but I believe we can make further huge steps based on the experience we now have with the one-design boat.

“I can tell you now I don’t even think about the record (of eight appearances). I think I can say I’m pretty successful in all the big races, but I just haven’t won this bloody race.

“When I don’t learn any more I won’t sail any more because other people will over-run you. But I know I have the capabilities to win this race because I have the capability to learn and get better. Plus I have all the experience that gives you something extra too.”

Bekking, as ever, is leading from the front with his plans for 2017-18 and another Dutch campaign. He faces a crowded market place with no less than three Dutch operations including his own pitching for sponsorship from The Netherlands although Bekking is also happy to go for overseas backers.

He says the Dutch campaigns are all in regular touch with each other and work together so there’s no double approach to the same individual sponsors. “It’s hard work but I believe sailors can bring an extra story of having done the event to sponsors, that’s why so many skippers are involved. What’s been interesting is seeing how many companies have approached us this time. I think they can now see the impact of the race, especially here in the Netherlands.“

It’ll be a busy spring and summer, no doubt, but Bekking as ever will be beavering away until he’s secured that prized berth once more for the greatest race on the planet.

I for one won’t be betting against him pulling it off one last time. Hold on. What am I talking about ‘one last time’? This guy will be the first pensioner to sail the Volvo Ocean Race. As I say, he’s an addict of this race, a pretty hopeless case.

Source Jon Bramley, Volvo Ocean Race Media.


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