A Very Interesting Second Rate Race

Published on October 24th, 2017

We find the Volvo Ocean Race as that fascinating mix of adventure and competition, where human drama is interlaced with tactical considerations. But the attention the race receives is not universally endorsed as expressed by this European blogger

Okay, the title is provocative, but it expresses my disillusion with how the Volvo Ocean Race (VOR) has become second rate. Why? Let me explain.

A first rate race is raced with state of the art machines and with the best racers in the world. We can take a parallel with the F1 when last year cars were outdated and not competitive, but all pilots, even the slowest, were the best in car racing and really the cream among top pilots.

The VOR is raced on one designs that are far from being state of the art. They were designed by the last place firm of the final edition raced in custom boats and the VO65s are slower than the fastest VOR of that edition…seven years ago!

Among the sailors that race the VOR, there are some top racers but the majority are far from being the world’s best offshore sailors, and now we have reached a point where the rules are bent to allow an advantage in having women instead of men.

Top racing is done with the best of the best, being men or women, not giving some advantage in having women among the crew.

Consider the Vendee Globe where almost all top solo offshore sailors are there and the boats are state of the art to the point of making impossible a last edition boat to win the race. Have the Groupama, the boat that won two editions ago, compete in this VOR edition and it would win the race! So much for state of the art sailboats.

Another ridiculous thing about this race is the boat nationalities. For instance they say: “Team AkzoNobel is a brand-new Dutch ocean racing team….continuing the remarkable legacy of Dutch teams competing in the race,” yet they only have one Dutch among the crew! A long way from the Whitbread spirit where nations felt they had boats representing them.

There is even a boat from the United Nations! Or an American/Danish boat without any Dane on it! If we consider (as it would be normal) that a boat to represent a country has to have at least the skipper plus more than half the crew from that country, only Mapfre qualifies itself as representing a nation: Spain.

We do find it interesting how many crew in this race have minimal offshore miles. You can say racing is racing, but maintaining that kind of intensity for thousands of miles, yet also knowing when to back off, takes experience. Kyle Langford, who is best known for trimming the wing for an America’s Cup winner and loser, had zero offshore miles three months before the start, yet there he is among the crew on Team Brunel. Interesting times!

To see the crew lists… click here.

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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.

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