On Sunday 22 October 2017, the 13th edition of the Volvo Ocean Race started in Alicante, Spain. Seven of the best sailing teams in the world will cover 45 thousand miles around the globe and will compete with each other for the next eight moths.
A cannon shot at 14:00 marked the start of the first leg that will finish in Lisbon, after 1,450 miles. A very exciting start, with all the teams quite visible, and a considerable psychological pressure for racers.
All-male teams will be able to race with just seven crew members, one fewer than the last race. That maximum crew limit goes up to eight or nine for teams taking seven men and one or two women, while an evenly mixed team is granted five men, five women. All-female teams can race with 11 sailors.
Teams will be able to change their crew combinations from leg to leg, but must have a consistent team for the in-port race and either the previous or subsequent offshore leg.
“After all that waiting, we’re ready, we want to sail”, said Xabi Fernández, the Spanish skipper of the MAPFRE team before the start. ” We want to get the heart of the race”.
Teams are expected to enter the Atlantic Ocean via Gibraltar on Monday 23 afternoon, about 24 hours after the start. Race Director Phi Lawrence has reserved the right to lengthen the route with additional waypoints, if necessary, in order to secure an on-time arrival into Lisbon for the weekend.
Media component is, of course, essential for the event: on board every Volvo Ocean 65 – the competitive monotypes designed by Bruce Farr’s studio for the last two editions of the race – is a media man who will register and broadcast onboard pictures and videos during the race.
The race will consist of 11 ocean legs and 11 in-port races. After the Portuguese capital city, the race will visit Cape Town ( South African Republic), Melbourne (Australia), Hong Kong and Guangzhou (China). Then, from the former British protectorate, the seven teams will head for Auckland (New Zealand). From the sailing capital of the world will start the (perhaps) most important leg. This year, in fact, organizers have wanted to pay particular attention to southern legs. There will be a bonus point for the first team to round Cape Horn before heading for Itajaì (Brazil). Then, teams will come back to the North Atlantic with a stop in Newport (Usa) and, again, to Europe, in Cardif (UK). After Goteborg (Sweden), seat of Volvo, the car company which is also the owner of the race, the final leg will take pace around 25 June in The Hauge (Holland).
All teams will fight hard to conquer the round-the-world race even if leaders remain the winners of the 2014-2015 Volvo Open Race, now encouraged by the absence of Abu Dhabi Ocean Race.
Team Brunel, runner-up in the last edition, is the Dutch team led by skipper Bowe Bekking, an experienced racer who joined his firs Withbread (this was the name of the round-the-world race before the entrance of the Swedish brand) in 1985-86. More than 30 years on, and now aged 54, Bekking’s Volvo Ocean Race obsession has only intensified – and he’s still chasing an elusive first win. Two of the three Italian sailors taking part in the race, Alberto Bolzan and Maciel Cicchetti, are on board the yellow-and-black hull sponsored by the Dutch consulting firm.
After far exceeding expectations with a podium finish in 2014-15, the Chinese-flagged Dongfeng Race Team is ready for a second shot at the Volvo Ocean Race under inspirational skipper Charles Caudrelier. At the first leg, the crew included the legendary Frank Cammas, one among the most titled ocean racers in the world. It is no coincidence that he led the fleet in the first Mediterranean moments.
Spanish team Mapfre return for a second consecutive edition after finishing in fourth place at 2014-2015 edition. Skipper Xabi Fernández has built a mixed and multinational squad brimming with honours – from Olympic gold medalists and America’s Cup winners, to some of the most highly regarded offshore sailors on the planet. Iberian component is prevalent: six of the nine crewmembers come from Spain.
Led by the American duo of Charlie Enright and Mark Towill, who had their first taste of the Volvo Ocean Race in the last edition with Alvimedica, Vestas 11th Hour Racing are back in the Volvo Ocean Race after their incredibile participation last year. After a terrible shipwreck in the middle of the Indian Ocean, in fact, their yacht was repaired by the Italian shipyard Persico Marine and able to join final legs.
New entries of the 2017-2018 Volvo Ocean Race include Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag team. Representing Hong Kong and China in general, they go into the race with an added goal to promote competitive sailing in Asia, while building a long-lasting youth sailing legacy.
Finally, the list of participants includes Turn the Tide on Plastic. Representing United Nations, the team is led by Britain’s Dee Caffari, one among the most winning sailorwomen of the history. Crew also includes the Italian Olympian champion Francesca Clapchic. The mixed team will promote and amplify a strong sustainability message. The campaign, backed by the principle sustainability partner the Mirpuri Foundation, and Ocean Family Foundation, is dedicated to the issue of ocean health.
The International Yachting Media will follow this exciting edition of the Volvo Ocean Race. So, stay tuned and have fun! (Pictures by Pedro Martinez/Volvo Ocean Race).
Article also available in: English