How can I do the Volvo Ocean Race?

Published on October 12th, 2017

The seven teams are preparing for the first leg of the 2017-18 Volvo Ocean Race on October 22, but first they will line up for the In-Port Race on October 14. Phillip Johnston, who has been working for Turn The Tide on Plastic, offers some insight into the crew selection process and how people can get ready to be on the start line of the next edition of the Volvo Ocean Race.

I work in shore operations, love supporting the race team, am passionate about athlete performance development and youth development in sailing. I have a coaching and management background and was part of a small team running selection trials for sailors of 30 years and under for this year’s race.

The biggest question I get asked is ‘how do i get to do the Volvo?’ So here we go….

TICK THE BOXES – All crew now must meet certain criteria like having Yachtmaster certificate. This is as simple of some study, logging miles and doing a course. I can highly recommend UKSA on the Isle of Wight to help get you qualified. Make sure you tick all the boxes early. You wouldn’t apply to be a pilot without a pilot’s licence.

GET FIT & STRONG – Far too many people that want to do this ultimate race just aren’t fit and strong enough. Get serious about it, get help and advice and make it part of your life routine.

SECONDARY SKILLS – Being a good sailor just isn’t enough. You need to bring other skills to the team like electronics, hydraulics, boat building etc. These are essential skills to have on board for when things go wrong in middle of the Ocean. Sailmaking and rigging are good but all offshore sailors should hold a reasonable level of skills in these areas already. Get learning…

ATTITUDE – As a coach we can’t teach attitude, so as a sailor you need to bring the right attitude to a team or a trial. That’s an open mind, a smile, willingness to get stuck in, determination and belief in yourself. Be prepared to work very hard, it doesn’t come easy.

GET EXPERIENCE – It’s hard to get experience on a Volvo 65 so you need to be creative with boats that will give you transferable experience. Knowing how to deal with the type of loads you experience on race yacht over 60ft is one example. The boats are high performance so mix up high performance sailing inshore with offshore sailing experience, it all adds up.

TALK TO PEOPLE – You don’t need to reinvent the wheel, speak to people who have been there, sailed the race, built the boats, worked for teams, been a coach. All these people will help your plan – NETWORK

BE COMMERCIAL – Money makes it all happen and sponsors are the most important part of your team. Learn the business side of the sport and appreciate it is a big part of the race.

FAILING TO PLAN IS PLANNING TO FAIL – Make a plan of how you are going to achieve everything that is going to give you the best chance of being on the start line. Short and long term goals.

START NOW – The time between races has now been reduced and there are athletes out there who have already started their plan to be in the next race.


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The Volvo Ocean Race will start on October 22 from Alicante, Spain. The Alicante Race Village is scheduled to open on October 11 with the In-Port Race on Saturday, October 14.

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.

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