Team AkzoNobel officially christened their new-build Volvo Ocean 65 on Wednesday, during a packed ceremony in the team's home port of The Hague.
With the whole sailing crew in attendance, and a flotilla of young Dutch sailors in Optimist dinghies, fans packed the dock to watch the arrival of the eye-catching boat – and The Hague's Mayor, Pauline Krikke, did the traditional honours of smashing a bottle of champagne over the boat's bow.
The ceremony is a maritime heritage which dates back hundreds of years, and is said to give the boat good luck as it sets off on its voyage around the planet.
“I wish Simeon and his crew the best with their preparations between now and the start in October," said the Mayor. "As the Host City for the finish of the race in June 2018, we stand by all the crews and we look forward to welcoming them safely home next year."
For team AkzoNobel's skipper Simeon Tienpont, the homecoming event marked a landmark moment in his team's development.
"It's been an exhilarating moment after all the months of hard work, getting the team together, getting this beautiful boat here in this place in the sun!" he said.
The boat build has taken over 36,000 man hours (the paint job itself took over 1,400 man hours to apply) – with much of the work being completed at Persico Marine in Bergamo, Italy, before the finishing touches, deck gear and intricate branding were added at the Boatyard in Lisbon, Portugal.
Mark Turner, Race CEO, who was in attendance at the event, said: “It's taken nearly nine months to build and complete the meticulous fit-out of this new Volvo Ocean 65. The boat builders at Persico Marine and our guys at The Boatyard have done an incredible job for team AkzoNobel."
Now the boat is ready, Simeon's attentions turn firmly to building his team – and he's confident that he has the right mix of salty Volvo Ocean Race veterans and hungry Race rookies to compete for the trophy.
"We have always known we had a very big task of forming a team that can compete with existing teams that are out there already, teams from the last edition as well, so it meant we needed experience, we needed an unbelievable partner like AkzoNobel and to bring everything together in a very tight time."
As for the next steps? Well, it's all hands to the pump, with a transatlantic crossing on the horizon this weekend – a shakedown training sail which the skipper thinks will prove invaluable for his crew, with the start of the race just 122 days away.
He continued: "There is no rest! Today is a celebration and tomorrow we are back into it. We are sailing tomorrow afternoon. The boat has been delivered by the Volvo Ocean Race Boatyard in a very good standard, but we still have some things to calibrate – the final refinements – and then we hope in the upcoming days to find the perfect weather window for us to go to New York on a transatlantic trip, which will be good for our team with different sailing conditions and we can collect proper data, we can look at our sails, our crossovers."
For now, Simeon and crew are just enjoying the atmosphere in their home port. “In many ways, the race starts right here and now for us,”he added.
“Hopefully, when we arrive back in The Hague next June after a lap of the world, we will be in contention to win the Volvo Ocean Race trophy for the Netherlands.”