Archivio della categoria Volvo Ocean Race

45 years – what a ride it’s been


What a ride it’s been.

© Barry Pickthall/PPL

Today marks 45 years since the first edition of the race, which saw 17 boats and 167 sailors take the start line off the maritime city of Portsmouth, on the south coast of the UK.

Those first races were co-organised by the Whitbread brewing company and the Royal Naval Sailing Association, and called the Whitbread Round the World Yacht Race.

The inaugural race was won by skipper Ramón Carlin and his crew on the Mexican entry Sayula II, a brand new Swan 65, which completed the course in a corrected time of 133 days and 13 hours. The first race started and finished in Portsmouth and had three stopovers: Cape Town, Sydney and Rio de Janeiro.

© Bob Fisher /PPL

Those early races took place every four years and if the first edition appealed to those with an adventurous spirit, it wasn’t long before the sport became more and more competitive and the race would quickly be seen as the ultimate test of seamanship, skill and teamwork.

By the time Volvo took over ownership of the race in 2001, legends like Conny van Rietschoten (the only skipper to win the race twice), Peter Blake, Grant Dalton and Paul Cayard were being celebrated for leading teams to victory in the ‘Everest of Sailing’.

Although technology would continuously make the boats faster over the years, they were no less difficult to sail. Quite the opposite, in fact. The demands and deprivations imposed on the crews remain to this day unlike that in any other sport.

And while better communication tools allows us more immediate insight into life on board, the experience of the race remains unique to those who take on the challenge.

New legends like Torben Grael, Franck Cammas, Ian Walker and most recently Charles Caudrelier, have seen their names added to the pantheon as winning skippers over the past few editions.

© Ainhoa Sanchez/Volvo Ocean Race

Looking forward, the race is once again entering a new era. After 45 years, new ownership will bring innovation while respecting the great heritage of the race.

The next edition, starting from Alicante in 2021, will see the challenge take place on incredible IMOCA 60 boats – foiling monohulls that begin to lift out of the water at speed.

Racing these boats through the Southern Ocean promises to test the sailors as never before.

But as in the previous 13 editions, the challenge of the competition, of battling against the fiercest conditions nature can offer, and the camaraderie of the crews who take to the seas, will ensure the next race is of a kind with those from the past.

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Global microplastic spread revealed


Only three of the 75 samples collected during the race, south of Australia, east of Argentina and west of Ireland, have been found to contain no microplastics.

© Jeremie Lecaudey/Volvo Ocean Race

The most recent data collected, before the race finale in The Hague, by scientific devices on board Team AkzoNobel and Turn the Tide on Plastic boats, found particularly high levels of microplastics, 224 particles per cubic metre, in Skagerrak, a 150-mile strait that runs between Norway, Sweden and Denmark where the outflow from the Baltic Sea meets the Atlantic Ocean.

The highest levels of microplastic, 349 particles per cubic metre, were found in a sample taken in the South China Sea that feeds into the Kuroshio Current and the North Pacific Gyre. The second highest, 307 particles per cubic metre, came close from the point where the Mediterranean Sea and Atlantic Ocean meet (Strait of Gibraltar).  

Even close to Point Nemo, the furthest place from land on Earth, where the nearest humans are on the International Space Station, between nine and 26 particles of microplastic per cubic metre were recorded.

The seawater samples were collected during the course of the 45,000 nautical mile, eight-month race, which passed six continents and 12 landmark Host Cities. The race began in Alicante last October, finishing in The Hague in June.

Anne-Cecile Turner, Sustainability Programme Leader for the Volvo Ocean Race, said: “We have used a sporting event to collect groundbreaking scientific data to provide a global map of microplastics concentrations - even finding them in some of the remotest places on Earth. 

The stark findings give a clear mandate for positive and decisive action from national governments, international organisations, business and individuals to stop plastic polluting our seas.  

“Our ambition is that the data will provide a new benchmark for our understanding of the spread of these ubiquitous particles and offer a template for future scientific methodology.

“With the continuation of the Sustainability Programme, we will continue our mission to inspire, engage and act as a pioneer, with the aim of restoring ocean health.”

Dr. Toste Tanhua of GEOMAR Institute for Ocean Research Kiel, funded by the Cluster of Excellence Future Ocean, analysed the preliminary microplastics data at their laboratory in Kiel, Germany.

The data has been then uploaded to a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) database where scientists are able to access it open source.

Dr. Tanhua said: “Volvo Ocean Race Science Programme has contributed enormously to the understanding of microplastic contribution around the world, and has contributed to a global map of CO2 uptake by the oceans. The race has showed that the race yachts and sailors can be excellent science supporters.”

The boats also collect other oceanographic data measurements including temperature, dissolved CO2, salinity, algae content (as chlorophyll a) that gives an indication of levels of ocean health and acidification and supports quantification of the ocean’s uptake of CO2. In parallel, 30 scientific drifter buoys, deployed during the race, are transmitting data that is essential for forecasting of weather and climate changes, in both the short and long term. This is being utilised by the World Meteorological Organisation and UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission.

Microplastics are often invisible to the naked eye and can take thousands of years to degrade. By collecting information on their levels, the Science Programme is helping scientists gain insight into the scale of plastic pollution and its impact on marine life.

Volvo Ocean Race Science Programme is funded by Volvo Cars, who are donating €100 from first 3,000 sales of the new Volvo V90 Cross Country Volvo Ocean Race edition to support the initiative.

Stuart Templar, Vice President of Sustainability at Volvo Cars, said: “Volvo Cars is proud to have funded the Science Programme, which has produced an unprecedented picture of the health of our oceans. In particular, this clearly shows the extent of the global problem of micro-plastic pollution.

“Decisive action needs to be taken, including by business. That is why Volvo Cars has made a number of pledges during the Race, including removing single use plastic by the end of 2019 and ensuring that at least 25% of the plastic in new Volvos is made from recycled material by 2025.

“The Volvo Ocean Race has set the standard for other major sporting events to follow in terms of practicing and promoting sustainability. We look forward to supporting the further development of the Sustainability Programme.”

To build upon the programme’s sustainability achievements, it will be embedded at the heart of the race going forward and in the run up to the next edition, the programme will continue to organise a range of international Ocean Summits, further expand the Education Programme and continue to pioneer a Scientific Programme focussing on ocean plastic. 

It will collaborate with a range of innovative partners, including 11th Hour Racing and UN Environment, to help deliver a lasting legacy and drive real change for a healthy planet.

The Sustainability Programme also convened a post-race workshop with key global stakeholders from science, academia, the private sector and other institutions, including UN Environment and Mirpuri Foundation, to identify the gaps to fill in order to advance our understanding of these issues and to align our missions.

Fiona Ball, Head of Responsible Business at Sky Ocean Rescue, said: “The data that Turn the Tide on Plastic collected throughout Volvo Ocean Race highlights the critical state of our oceans. By supporting the Turn the Tide on Plastic yacht, Sky Ocean Rescue aims to raise awareness and inspire everyone to make simple, everyday changes to stop our oceans from drowning in plastic. We can all play our part and turn off the plastic tap, now is the time for fundamental change to protect our planet.”

Volvo Ocean Race Sustainability Programme is a partnership in collaboration with Sustainability Partners 11th Hour Racing, the Mirpuri Foundation and our other main partners, Volvo, AkzoNobel, Ocean Family Foundation, Stena Recycling and Bluewater. The Turn the Tide on Plastic boat was supported by Sky Ocean Rescue. 

UN Environment #CleanSeas campaign, which partners with the Race, aims to encourage governments, businesses and individuals to make changes in their own lives to reduce their plastic footprint.

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


 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. 


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”


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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