Brouhaha over ocean race course change

Published on November 7th, 2021

Before it became The Ocean Race, it was the Volvo Ocean Race in which the round the world course evolved into a trunk show, stopping along the way to flex its commercial muscle. Rather than zipping across the lower latitudes, the course was detouring through India, United Arab Emirates, Singapore, and China. Asia was big business for Volvo and team sponsors.

The Clipper Round the World Race, in which crew pay to participate, had laid the template for leveraging the course for profit. While these routes weren’t ideal for sailing, they paid the bills. Unfortunately for the 2019-20 Clipper Race, they were enroute to Asia as the start of the pandemic, and were forced to pause the race in March 2020.

While the Clipper Race hopes to restart from the Philippines in February 2022, The Ocean Race isn’t taking any chances and has revised their course to avoid the region all together. For the first time, the course will have no stops along the southern oceans, making for the longest leg in race history.

But before the new 12,750 nautical mile leg from Cape Town, South Africa to Itajaí, Brazil, there were intended to be stops in Shenzhen, China and Auckland, New Zealand, and the New Zealand Herald now reports the Kiwis aren’t too pleased with this revision:

Calling the move a “slap in the face” of fans, Auckland stopover organizers Mayo & Calder had been informed of the decision less than 24 hours before the announcement, and are puzzled as the Auckland stopover was still 17 months away.

“Preparations for the Auckland stopover are well advanced and we have been working with our investment partners in the New Zealand Government and Auckland Council agencies to ensure all appropriate contingencies are in place to allow a successful stopover in 2023,” Mayo & Calder said in a statement.

“This has been communicated repeatedly to race organizers, with no requests made or assurances sought with regard to New Zealand’s COVID-19 response over this time.

“The Auckland stopover is at the heart of The Ocean Race and is its spiritual home. For almost 50 years Kiwis have given the race and teams a welcome like no other and it would be a slap in the face of supporters around the world if race organizers don’t resolve this situation appropriately.

“In conjunction with our legal advisors and with the support of our investment partners we are now focused on working with the race organizer to achieve a satisfactory resolution to this disappointing situation.”

The course change will also delay the start from Alicante, Spain, originally planned for October 2022, to now late December 2022 or early January 2023 with the final date yet to be announced.

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The Ocean Race (formerly 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. The 14th edition was originally planned for 2021-22 but was postponed one year due to the pandemic.

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