Did The Ocean Race just get smaller?

Published on December 2nd, 2022

When the Volvo Ocean Race 2017-18 was one month from finishing, it was announced how the next edition of the race would start in 2021, under new ownership, without Volvo as a sponsor. It was a lot to take in, but the leadership was solid and the race remained iconic.

That all seems so long ago.

In July 2020, the pandemic postponed the start from the autumn of 2021 to October 2022. No title sponsor stepped forward, with the race awkwardly rebranded as The Ocean Race. The plan was to bring back the VO65s for a third time, but also heighten excitement with an IMOCA division.

The start got delayed again to January 2023, but also lacking was verifiable entries. The TEAMS link on the website had been more of a wish list, though the IMOCA fleet does now list five confirmed teams. As for the VO65s, some of the boats have been active since 2018, but no firm commitment to The Ocean Race.

That situation just took a weird turn with the introduction of the new The Ocean Race Sprint Cup. While the press release was full of promise, it now appears the VO65s may not be going around the world.

The Ocean Race has seven legs, and this trophy is for the best score across Legs 1, 6, and 7. Those legs are handy for logistics, but hardly emblematic for the 14th edition of this offshore classic:

Leg 1: Alicante, Spain to Cabo Verde
Leg 6: Aarhus, Denmark to The Hague, the Netherlands
Leg 7: The Hague to Genova, Italy

The start of Leg 1 is in six weeks, and the VO65 teams racing for only The Ocean Race VO65 Sprint Cup remains unknown, though it is a safe guess this will be their only competition. That leaves five 60-foot IMOCAs as the highlight (only light) of The Ocean Race 2022-23 (which is really just 2023).

After seven boats competed in both the 2014-15 and 2017-18 editions, this is a disappointing trend. Considering how the IMOCAs are famously fragile, how many will survive the six month test? Standing by…

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The Ocean Race 2022-23 Race Schedule:
Alicante, Spain – Leg 1 start: January 15, 2023
Cabo Verde – ETA: January 22; Leg 2 start: January 25
Cape Town, South Africa – ETA: February 9; Leg 3 start: February 26 or 27 (TBC)
Itajaí, Brazil – ETA: April 1; Leg 4 start: April 23
Newport, RI, USA – ETA: May 10; Leg 5 start: May 21
Aarhus, Denmark – ETA: May 30; Leg 6 start: June 8
Kiel, Germany (Fly-By) – June 9
The Hague, The Netherlands – ETA: June 11; Leg 7 start: June 15
Genova, Italy – The Grand Finale – ETA: June 25, 2023; Final In-Port Race: July 1, 2023

The Ocean Race (formerly Volvo Ocean Race and Whitbread Round the World 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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