Archivio della categoria Volvo Ocean Race

Alex Thomson, skipper of Hugo Boss, on the next Race

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 Alex Thomson has two podium finishes (including a second place in the 2016 edition) in the Vendée Globe as well as numerous distance and speed records to his credit. 

© www.alexthomsonracing.com

He is famous not just for his offshore racing achievements, but his impressive promotional videos as well (see the "Mast Walk" here, for example).

Earlier this month, Thomson was among the IMOCA skippers involved in a meeting to discuss the changes required to maximise the opportunity presented by the announcement that the next edition of the race would be in the IMOCA 60 class.

Below he shares his thioughts:


Alex, could you explain what this meeting is about and your involvement in the whole process?

We’re here to discuss the process of deciding what the rules for the next Race will look like. Obviously the race will be in IMOCA 60s, which is very interesting for someone like me – it’s exciting as a sailor. In face, I got into this offshore sailing world initially because I wanted to do the Volvo Ocean Race and now I feel like I have a chance to do it.

But in effect, we’re bringing two worlds together. And my view is that we need to make sure the two worlds connect and co-exist, as much as possible, within one infrastructure. So that's what we’re discussing; how do we do that? How do we keep costs under control, for example? How do we make it fun for the sailors and the fans? How do we develop the media? All of these are critically important questions to answers and how we do it will determine the success of the event in the future.


You’re one of the most media savvy and accessible sailors in any of the disciplines in sailing... From your perspective, how do you perceive the Race at the moment?

This last edition of the Volvo Ocean Race was very different to the kind of events we normally do in IMOCA. The Volvo Ocean Race does much more as an event organiser in terms of media, communication, and this sort of thing.

In our case, as a team, we’ve built that structure to be able to give a proper return to our partner, and so we’re able to do that ourselves, but not all teams are like that.

So the question becomes how do we make sure we’re not duplicating efforts. What should the teams do, and what should the event organiser do?

I feel very pleased to see that we’re all thinking in the same way: how do we make the economics work in terms of cost, value for money, etc. to create a sustainable event.


How do you see the process as a whole, in terms of finding common ground between the IMOCA world and the race?

To be honest I don’t think it’s a big negotiation. For this to work well, it has to work for everybody. We have to get more boats on the start line in 2021. Many more boats. And that’s my goal.

To do that, we need to make the division between big and small teams as small as possible. The last thing we need is rich teams running away with the race before the start gun is fired. And I think if everybody is focused on getting more boats on the start line, that is what will drive the rules and everything else.

 

© Volvo Ocean Race

Do you have a strong opinion regarding the number of crew on an IMOCA?

(Laughing) We all have strong opinions on topics like this and I’m no different!!

I’ve just sailed across the Atlantic and we were five on board, so it was interesting to find out that there is not a lot of space, that’s for sure, but with five people you can certainly push the boat much harder.

So everything has an impact. If you want to make the boat more reliable, then the less crew you have, the less hard they push, perhaps the more reliable the boat will be. And the more crew you put on board, the more cost you have as well.

But we’re all clear that this needs to be a fully-crewed race and my understanding is that the objective is to not have a fancy autopilot, so it’s a human-driven boat, which I think is important as well.

So in this area, I think we still need more information before taking a decision. The less people we have, the less cost there is, but again, I don’t think we’re far away from an agreement.


So the plan for you is to do the next Vendée Globe followed by the next Race on your new boat ?

We are looking at two options. One is to do the Vendée Globe, and then come out and do the Race as well. Another option is to build a new boat for the next Race, which obviously carries a cost… In the end, it will depend on the final rules, on how many gains there are to make. So at this point, it’s difficult to make that decision.

How do you think it’s going to work between Race teams and IMOCA teams?

I definitely think we’ll see teams coming just to do the Race. And I think we’ll see some merging between teams that in the past have done the Volvo Ocean Race with some IMOCA teams. I think there is a big opportunity there for the IMOCA teams.

After the Vendée Globe we have a big space on the calendar and not a lot to do and you start looking for new partners. This is a great opportunity for the boats to be chartered, or for a merger with teams who want to do the Race.

And of course on the IMOCA side, we have a lot of data and a lot of experience in these boats. so the Volvo teams could benefit from that as well. The two ecosystems could really come together and flourish. I think if we get this whole thing right, then everybody will say, 'Well done you’ve created something that increases the sustainability of the business model for the teams, which means that our sport will be growing for a long time'. That’s what we all need to focus on.


So, will we see you on the start line in 2021?

Almost certainly, yes!

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The Turn the Tide on Plastic Story: “Seeing the bigger picture”

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When veteran skipper Dee Caffari piloted her Turn the Tide on Plastic race boat away from the dock in Alicante for the start of the Volvo Ocean Race on October 22 2017, she carried one of the youngest, least-experienced crews in history.

© James Blake/Volvo Ocean Race

“The buzz I get now, will be seeing those faces rounding Cape Horn for the first time. To take people there, and make it happen… amazing,” Caffari said before she left the dock.

And by the time the race finished in The Hague nearly nine months later, her team had achieved an unexpected result, lifting themselves off the bottom of the leaderboard in the most dramatic way possible.

Along the way, the rookies had grown and during the second half of the race, often threatened to achieve not just a podium, but outright leg wins. But despite spending days on several legs at or near the front, the podium result never materialised.

“Yet again I’m stood here saying for the fourth leg running, ‘They didn’t get the result they deserve’,” said a frustrated Caffari in Newport, after the team had been challenging for the lead for much of the leg. “So I’m kind of stuck as a skipper on how to pick them up and get going for the next leg, but that’s what I’ve got to do.”

Turn the Tide on Plastic Race Review - Volvo Ocean Race 2017-18

Not only did the Turn the Tide on Plastic crew need to deal with competitive pressures, but of equal importance to the campaign, the team passionately carried a strong #cleanseas environmental message, determined to make an impact on and off the water.

The team had scientific equipment on board to collect water samples that would later be analysed to determine the levels of microplastics that exist in some of the most remote waters on the planet.

“We’re seeing the harsh reality of how many microplastics there are in our oceans,” Caffari said, after learning of the results from some of their early samples.

“Sadly, even in the most remote parts of the Southern Ocean, we’re seeing that microplastics are present.”

But this team must also be measured by its success on the water. It would come down to the final In-Port Race in The Hague for Turn the Tide on Plastic to lift itself off the bottom of the leaderboard, and secure a sixth place finish.

“I’m so happy for the crew,” Caffari said amid the euphoria dockside at the end. “I think we really deserved this.”

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The next edition of the race is taking shape

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The Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag race story: “We never give up”

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Skipper David Witt and his team of Scallywags experienced the highest of highs and lowest of lows in this edition of the Volvo Ocean Race.

© Jeremie Lecaudey/Volvo Ocean Race

A late entrant, led by the outspoken Witt, SHK/Scallywag was dubbed an underdog by the pundits, but proved with some bold navigation choices that it could be a force on the leaderboard.

A leg win into their home port of Hong Kong and a strong second-place finish on the following leg meant the team was in a podium position at the halfway point in Auckland.

But those achievements were rendered insignificant by the loss of veteran crew member John Fisher in the Southern Ocean, 1,400 miles west of Cape Horn, on Leg 7.

Following an outpouring of support from the Volvo Ocean Race family and the sailing community at large, the team would elect to sail on, with a focus on finishing the race in honour of Fish, who held sailing in the Volvo Ocean Race as a lifelong dream.

Scallywag Race Review - Volvo Ocean Race 2017-18

On the leaderboard, SHK/Scallywag would eventually settle for a seventh place finish, on equal points with Turn the Tide on Plastic. But that wouldn’t tell the full story of their race.

“It’s an ethos the Scallywags try and live by,” explained Witt at the time. “We never give up, we look after each other and we do it together.

“The support we’ve had from within the Volvo family has been amazing. It takes special people to do this race and I think that character has been exemplified by the way we’ve been supported by the other competitors…”

“I think the race has 100% changed me,” Witt would later say, reflecting as the event came to a close. “I’m probably more tolerant and more patient now… When you go through the loss of someone like Fish, your priorities change and the way I prioritise things has probably changed a hell of a lot. You realise you can’t control everything.”

Witt also expressed immense pride in the development of his young crew, who he’s seen mature and grow over the course of the race.

“The people on this boat, they never give up,” he said. “In fact, they actually work harder when things get hard. I think that’s one of the things we’re most proud of as a team…”

The race in numbers for SHK/Scallywag:
1 --- Best Leg finish: First place - Leg 4
4 --- Best In-Port Race finish: Fourth place - Guangzhou, Newport
10 --- Number of rookies in the race (the most of any team)
16 --- Total number of crew to sail with the team
20 --- Years between races for skipper David Witt who sailed in the 1997-98 event
21 --- Age of the youngest crew in the race: Ben Piggot, 21 years old

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The sailors’ views on plastic pollution

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It was also a chance to share their experiences of the ocean plastic crisis, including floating plastic chairs and the need to educate children about ways to improve the health of our seas.

Dee Caffari, skipper of Turn the Tide on Plastic, Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag's Annemieke Bes, Mark Towill, co-skipper of Vestas 11th Hour Racing, Simeon Tienpoint skipper of team AkzoNobel, MAPFRE skipper Xabi Fernandez and Carolijn Brouwer of Dongfeng Race Team joined the discussion on stage.

Ocean Summit The Hague - A View from the Sea... in 228 seconds

Turn the Tide on Plastic skipper Dee Caffari said: “We’ve been in places such as the remote Southern Ocean, miles from anywhere, and we were still finding microplastic present there.

“Travelling from Hong Kong to Auckland we passed a beautiful tropical island on one side of the boat and on the other there were bottles and plastic packaging polluting the beautiful waters.

“We’ve been seeing it first hand and it just makes you aware of the scale of what we’re fighting to protect. We’re now acting as ambassadors for the sport and for ocean health.”

Promoting the UN Environment’s #CleanSeas campaign, the Turn the Tide on Plastic boat collected microplastic samples to provide scientists with a better understanding of the scale of the plastic problem.

Vestas 11th Hour Racing’s Team Director Mark Towill, set a positive tone for what the race has achieved in terms of promoting the issues and the solutions.

He said: “These Ocean Summits have been incredible and the progress, as a community we have made is unbelievable and the future is bright.”

Donfeng’s Carolijn Brouwer, added: “For my son who’s been following me around the world, in Newport, for example, there was a kids Exploration Zone, and they were teaching kids about plastic in the oceans.

“I came home one night, and there was a note from my son on my bed, and it said, ‘Mommy, I will not put any plastic in the oceans, and I will put it in the bin.’ This is raising awareness, this is impact – he’s only seven years old, and when he goes back to school he will do a show-and-tell, and these are the kinds of things he will share.”

Team AkzoNobel skipper Simeon Tienpoint, reflected: “Our oceans are the most beautiful back garden we have in the world and just as we teach our children not to throw trash in the street, we should also teach them not to throw it in the oceans.”

Annemieke Bes, from Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag, told the audience how, even though they were in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, she saw a plastic chair floating by.

During the two-day event, a range of announcements helped develop a roadmap for future solutions to improve the health of our sea, setting a course for a healthier future for our oceans.

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