Route review: The Ocean Race 2021-22
Published on April 10th, 2020
by Justin Chisholm, Yacht Racing Life
In the second in our series of exclusive articles aimed at finding out what past and present competitors of The Ocean Race think of the recently announced round-the-world route for the 2021-22 edition, we caught up with three-time Ocean Race skipper Ian Walker.
During his career Walker has competed at the very highest level in international yacht racing. He has two Olympic silver medals of his own (1996 and 2000) and coached Shirley Robertson’s Yngling team to a gold at the Sydney 2004 Games. He skippered the British America’s Cup campaign in 2002 and in 2015 became the first and only British skipper to lift the Volvo Ocean Race trophy after winning the race with Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing.
Since announcing his retirement from active campaigning Walker has been working as the Director of Racing at the Royal Yachting Association (RYA) – a role that encompasses the British Olympic Sailing Team.
What was your immediate reaction to the confirmed route for the next edition of the race?
It is always a difficult balance between the commercial need to visit many stopovers and the teams wish to keep costs down by minimizing the stops. I think the sailors generally prefer the longer offshore legs and they will struggle with the last two legs. Trying to navigate all the exclusion zones in the North Sea and the English Channel is a nightmare, as can be the Mediterranean . Psychologically it is always hard to go back on yourself!
What are the most notable elements of the course in your opinion?
I was a bit disappointed that the traditional Leg 1 from Alicante to Cape Town had been broken into two stages (with a stop in Cabo Verde). It has always been my favorite leg that has a bit of everything, including one of the few opportunities to make tactical plays. I think three weeks is a good length of time for the first leg of an ocean race giving time to settle in to a routine and it is a real shame to split it in two.
In particular it takes out the tactical challenge of how to navigate the Cape Verde Islands and the chance to get leverage in the Doldrums. On Green Dragon in 2008 we had one of the slowest boats and we were first to the scoring gate at Fernando de Noronha because we got that decision right by heading a long way West.
That said, I have always wanted to go to the Cape Verde Islands. In 2014 we gybed all the way down the North coast of one of the islands and it looked amazing!
The start of Leg 2 will be tough as you have to escape the lee of the Cape Verdes which are really high and can affect the wind for hundreds of miles and then soon after cross the Doldrums.
The seaweed of the Sargasso Sea will be a challenge for the foilers! Full report.
The Ocean Race 2021-22 (formerly The Volvo Ocean Race) will be raced in two classes of boats: the high-performance, foiling, IMOCA 60 class and the one-design VO65 class which has been used for the last two editions of the race. Entries in the IMOCA 60 class will compete for The Ocean Race trophy, while those racing the VO65s will chase the Ocean Challenge Trophy.
Ten Stopovers for 14th Edition:
• Alicante, Spain: This historic Mediterranean port will host the start for the fifth consecutive edition in the autumn of 2021.
• Cabo Verde: More accustomed to having offshore teams sail by, or stop for repair, this archipelago of ten volcanic islands in the central Atlantic Ocean will become just the second African venue the race has ever visited and the first West African nation to host the event. Details.
• Cape Town, South Africa: Located on the shore of Table Bay, Cape Town, as the oldest urban area in South Africa, was developed by the United East India Company (VOC) as a supply station for Dutch ships sailing to East Africa, India, and the Far East. Located at latitude 33.55° S, it’s approximately the same as Sydney and Buenos Aires and equivalent to Casablanca and Los Angeles in the northern hemisphere. Details.
• Shenzhen, China: Located in the southeast, the city is a modern metropolis that links Hong Kong to China’s mainland. It’s known for its shopping destinations and features contemporary buildings, such as the 600m-tall skyscraper Ping An International Finance Centre, and a number of amusement parks. The city is a leading global technology hub and was one of the fastest-growing cities in the world in the 1990s and the 2000s. Details.
• Auckland, New Zealand: European, Polynesian, Asian, and strong Maori heritages give Auckland its distinctive culture. Located in the North Island of New Zealand, it is the most populous urban area in the country with an urban population of around 1,570,100. Details.
• Itajaí, Brazil: To the south of Rio de Janeiro, Itajaí was founded in the mid-19th century by German and Italian colonists, and is now the commercial centre and Atlantic port for an agricultural region drained by the Itajaí River and its tributaries. Details.
• Newport, USA: Located on Aquidneck Island, Newport is 74 miles south of Boston and 180 miles northeast of New York City. It is known as a New England summer resort and is famous for its historic mansions and its rich sailing history. It was the location of every challenge to the America’s Cup between 1930 and 1983. It is also the home of Naval Station Newport, which houses the United States Naval War College, the Naval Undersea Warfare Center, and an important Navy training center. This is the third consecutive edition of the race to stop in Newport. Details.
• Aarhus, Denmark: The course comes to the east coast of the Jutland peninsula during the spring of 2022, following a popular ‘Fly-By’ of the city during the final leg of the 2017-18 edition of the Race. Details.
• The Hague, Netherlands: This city along the North Sea coast will welcome the race for a third consecutive time, first coming as a ‘pitstop’ on the final leg of the 2014-15 edition and as the final finish port for the 2017-18 race. Details.
• Genoa, Italy: As the birthplace of Christopher Columbus, this first-time race host is Italy’s largest sea port yet remains full of grandeur as the gateway to the Riviera while offering weighty architectural heritage. Details.
• IMOCA – Team Malizia (GER)- Boris Herrmann (GER)
• VO65 – Racing For The Planet (POR)
• IMOCA – Paul Meilhat (FRA)
• IMOCA – 11th Hour Racing (USA) – Charlie Enright & Mark Towill (USA)