The Volvo Ocean Race today unveiled a series of radical initiatives that will create the toughest all-round test in professional sailing and strengthen the appeal of the 44-year-old round-the-world race to pro sailors, team owners and their sponsors, race partners, host cities and fans.
While the final preparations are being made for the 2017-18 edition, starting 22 October, race organisers used a live event at the Volvo Museum in Gothenburg, the home of the race’s owners and title sponsors, to present a bold vision for the next decade and beyond.
Highlights include the choice of a new 60-foot (18.29 metre) foil-assisted One Design ocean racing monohull, designed by France’s Guillaume Verdier, plus the introduction of a challenging 32-50 foot (10-15m) One Design ‘flying’ catamaran for In-Port Races, for which a new design and build tender process was launched today.
The offshore legs will remain the key to winning the Volvo Ocean Race, but the inshore racing will count more than the current situation, where it acts only as a tiebreaker. That means winning the race in future will demand expertise in both monohull racing offshore and multihull racing in the In-Port Series, as both platforms will be raced by essentially the same crew.
“Three hulls, but not what you might have imagined,” said Volvo Ocean Race CEO Mark Turner, revealing the choice of the next generation One Design boats, and referencing the difficult decision of whether to opt for a monohull or multihull design for the ocean legs, a subject that has been passionately debated by Volvo Ocean Race fans.
The race also announced new initiatives including:
- Putting sustainability at the heart of the race with the Clean Seas campaign of United Nations Environment, and key partnerships with 11th Hour Racing and AkzoNobel that will significantly amplify the global campaign. The sustainability platform is central to the positioning of the race going forward.
- Race activity every calendar year, and the launch of a three-edition Host City tender process with options for tradition-busting new routes and stopover formats.
- Building the pathway to the Volvo Ocean Race for sailors and sponsors, via a partnership with World Sailing, the sport’s governing body.
- A sponsor-focused Global Team Challenge that will form the centrepiece of a Leadership Development and Team Performance Programme – capitalising on race learnings for business and re-using the Volvo Ocean 65 boats after the 2017-18 edition for the on-water part.
"We had a lot of debate about multihull versus monohull and, in fact, the final solution for us is to do both, so there will be three hulls in future editions – a foil-assisted monohull and a ‘flying’ catamaran," said Volvo Ocean Race CEO Mark Turner.
“The Volvo Ocean Race has always been the ultimate test of a team in professional sport and with these changes – collectively the most radical since the race began in 1973 – we are taking it up another level," Turner continued. The obsession that has led to generations of sailors putting everything on the line to win this race will continue, but to lift the trophy will require more skill, dedication and sacrifice than ever.
“We are staying true to our DNA as an ocean race but we will now also be testing the world’s best sailors to their limits inshore as well.
“At the same time, the commercial offering has so many extra elements added to it making it a powerful business transformation platform. We remain one of the few global, professional, world-class sporting events with a great commercial package that goes with it, with an outstanding Business to Business product, along with a rich heritage and strong consumer, media and employee activation options, much of it built into the campaigns.
"We are fortunate as well to have such strong and consistent backing from our owners Volvo, two decades on from their acquisition of the event. The race has never been in such a strong position as we look to the next decade and beyond."
Volvo announced the agreement to buy the race from former owners Whitbread 20 years ago and has provided vision and staunch backing ever since.
“Volvo said at the time that the race successfully brings together adventure, sport and high level technology,” said Volvo Group’s Henry Sténson, Executive Vice President for Communication & Sustainability Affairs.
"So while much has changed in the last 20 years, fundamentally, nothing has changed. We’re particularly excited to see the Volvo Ocean Race reinforce that commitment to innovation – an area that is so important to us at Volvo Group."
In addition, Björn Annwall, Senior Vice President for Strategy, Brand & Retail at Volvo Cars, highlighted the race’s renewed commitment to sustainability.
“Volvo Car Group has been involved in sustainability projects for a long time and we’re excited to see the race strengthen its position as a sporting event that is so in tune with its ocean environment and one that inspires such passion.”