Even before the last race was concluded, dozens of ports had put their names forward as potential stopovers for the Volvo Ocean Race 2014-15.
The numbers are being slowly whittled down, as organisers balance sailing, commercial and operational needs in search of the perfect route
“We invited cities to share their interests more than a year ago,” explained Chief Operating Officer Tom Touber. “More than 60, 65 cities were actually interested.”
The numbers are being slowly whittled down, as organisers balance sailing, commercial and operational needs in search of the perfect route.
“After the first round of applications, the team leading the process made a first assessment," Touber said. "Is the water deep enough – that’s a hard criteria, of course – is it close to an international airport, etc. The level of backing from the local government is also checked.
“It all came down to 35 options, which are being thoroughly investigated. We sent out a team of three people, each visiting a different part of the world. They checked all operational facilities and the commitment of the organising committee and will return to the office by the end of next week.”
It will then be time to debrief and cut down that list again with the help of data that is currently being crunched by Gonzalo Infante, the Spanish weather specialist who is assessing the viability of each possible route.
“My role is to quantify timing and elapsed times for the different options,” said Infante. “In ocean racing, we’re using routing tools to compute timing. It’s a very well known algorithm, that tries to find the fastest route given a boat performance and a certain weather.
“I work with two sources of uncertainty: the first one is the weather and the second one is the boat performance. We need to use a lot of weather data to cover all the legs and all the climatic cycles. For example, you have years of El Niño or La Niña when the intensity of the trade winds changes.
"And remember that we are designing a new boat, that has not sailed yet. We have to manage that lack of real data through speed prediction software.”
Such a complex equation takes time to be resolved but organisers are on course to have a finalised route by the end of 2012, with the announcement of the ports expected in January 2013.
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