Mark Turner: In his own words

Published on September 27th, 2017

On September 26, less than one month before the start of the 2017-18 edition, the Volvo Ocean Race announced they were pulling the handbrake on their ambitious plans for the future and CEO Mark Turner would be stepping down from his role with the event.

That kind of announcement knocks the leaves from the trees, and gets the rumor mill rumbling about the stability of the race. In a move to calm the seas, Mark Turner talks about the news, the upcoming 2017-18 edition, and the future. Video published on Sep 27, 2017. A transcript from the video is below:

Since I joined the Volvo Ocean Race in summer 2016, there were two different missions as I saw it. One was to get the 2017-18 race in place. There wasn’t a lot in place at that time, in terms of the teams certainly, but we looked forward to an exciting and high-value race for all the stakeholders. But in parallel to that was with the establishment of a strong leadership team that didn’t depend on me, most of all, and develop with them a strategy for the next decade.

I think we’ve worked very well together on both those parallel missions though it’s not been easy to balance the time for everybody concerned. On the first one, it’s been a bit of a struggle to get everything together for 2017-18. I don’t think anyone else would say otherwise, but in the end we genuinely have a great lineup with a depth of quality of sailor that I haven’t seen in the race for a long time.

We have a race village which is being built (at the start of the race) in Alicante (Spain) at the moment which I think would be second to none in response to some of the requests from our stakeholders about the premiumness and the level of the race village. The sporting level will be second to none and a lot of other extra things we’ve added back into the race to get more people sailing. We’ve sought to increase business value alongside the sporting credibility of going back to the Southern Ocean and promoting mixed teams.

So there’s bunches of stuff that I’m really proud of what the teams has done for this upcoming race while at the same time we have had to develop the next decade. We brought a lot of stakeholders with us. We got this year to May and then June with a second set of announcements with a huge, ambitious plan which I felt was the necessary way to go forward.

We got everybody on board to do that, but the reality of this behind the scenes were the dozens of decisions and approvals and steps to jump through to make sure this ambitious plan stayed on track. It was a plan that had very tight timing and we couldn’t afford to miss any of those hurdles.

We couldn’t miss getting anything signed, and ultimately I failed to get all those steps done in the right timing so now we face the situation where we know we’re unable to proceed, in particularly with the tooling for the new monohull. We had a type of timeframe and that delay ultimately means we can’t go forward with the 2019 race in new boats.

However, the whole overall strategy isn’t being questioned by Volvo. Their commitment to the race isn’t being questioned. They’re very excited about this race and have more plans, more activation, and more things going on than they’ve ever had before. So I think there’s a genuine excitement and commitment to the race going forward, but we just couldn’t move some of the processes and the steps forward in the same timeline that we needed to be able to guarantee that we’d have a great race in 2019 with boats actually finished and on the start line.

I’m gutted about that. I’m very disappointed about that. For me, the 2019 part of it was fundamental to the strategy in the sense that in order for it to work without any question, we sought to be in a position to have more demand than supply for a race in 2019. So now, on a personal front, I don’t think I’m the person to best carry what will be a new timing plan forward with a longer time scale.

But that’s a very different than saying a strategy isn’t going to work or a strategy being dropped. It hasn’t been. I know the support is there from everybody to go forward with a plan that’s at least similar to the one that was announced. But the timing will need to be different and someone else will come with that timing and see it through.

I think the Volvo Ocean Race is smooth forward and Volvo will move forward in their understanding of the race and there’s a very very bright future for it. But it’s going to be on a different timeline and it’s one that personally, when considering my family and the sacrifices that go into delivering this kind of thing, it’s not one that I feel capable of being a person at the front and shouldering that responsibility for.

So there will be someone else carrying the plan forward and I will support them and I am not leaving this race until that person’s in place. As has been said many times, we have built a leadership team here which is second to none, and a talented team in Alicante here that are very dedicated and going to be delivering an amazing 2017-18 race which we’re really proud of the progress that’s been made.

I’m looking forward to seeing the colour of the racing. The depth of sporting talent we have in this race is a little bit unexpected. We have everything from the Olympic medalists straight from Rio, to a lot of young sailors – way more than the rules require – to mixed teams which is a fairly bold step for us to make as a race to incentivize. We are seeing world-class talent from all different parts of sailing including the America’s Cup competitors and winners along with sailors that have been away for two or three editions and have come back.

This is all fantastic and I am genuinely excited to see what happens on the water. It’s going to be an interesting match with people of different levels of experience and competitiveness all competing on a one design platform which levels the playing field in a big way. It’s going to be a very interesting thing to see.

For me though, the sporting side on its own has never been enough. The constraint of all sailing events and all mechanical sports is funding, so balancing that increase in sporting value with commercial value is very important and I’m excited to see what we put in place, both in race village public experience and the experience for guests of sponsors, and getting more people out sailing and experiencing the sport firsthand in high-performance sailing boats. One way or another, that’s going to be a big big step up I hope for the race.

The final part is how we made a big switch for this race. We have got us our strategy of digital first. We see that traditional media to spread the word of the race is still very important to us but have switched to our digital first strategy and have an incredible team trying to work out ways to share the content from the boats, encourage the boats to share more content in a raw form, and get it out into digital platforms as soon as possible in different ways. I’m really excited to watch how that’s going to unfold during this race.

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2017-18 Edition: Entered Teams – Skippers
Team AkzoNobel (NED), Simeon Tienpont (NED)
Dongfeng Race Team (CHN), Charles Caudrelier (FRA)
MAPFRE (ESP), Xabi Fernández (ESP)
Vestas 11th Hour Racing (DEN/USA), Charlie Enright (USA)
Team Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag (HKG), David Witt (AUS)
Turn the Tide on Plastic (POR), Dee Caffari (GBR)
Team Brunel (NED), Bouwe Bekking (NED)

Background: Racing the one design Volvo Ocean 65, the 2017-18 Volvo Ocean Race begins in Alicante, Spain on October 22 2017 with the final finish in The Hague, Netherlands on June 30 2018. In total, the 11-leg race will visit 12 cities in six continents: Alicante, Lisbon, Cape Town, Melbourne, Hong Kong, Guangzhou, Auckland, Itajaí, Newport, Cardiff, Gothenburg, and The Hague. A maximum of eight teams will compete.

Source: Volvo Ocean Race

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