Torben Grael and the crew of Ericsson 4 arrived in Kochi in darkness to win Leg 2 of the Volvo Ocean Race. The 4,450 nm leg, which started from Cape Town, South Africa on 15 November took Grael and his men 14 days, 11 hours, 32 minutes and 30 seconds (elapsed time 14:11:32:30). Adding the four points the team collected for passing through the leg two scoring gate (the line of longitude 58 degrees east which the fleet had to pass from east to west anywhere south of the latitude 20 degrees south), to the eight points for a leg win, boosts the team’s overall score to 26 points.
This is the first time India has been incorporated on the route. According to Business Standard there is already high excitement in Kerala; the Kerala Yachting Association (KYA), sensing that the timing is right, is trying to drum up more support for the sport in the state. The organisation is encouraging new participants to enter events, while pushing a comprehensive programme for yachting enthusiasts in the age group of seven to15 close on the heels of the ocean race.
Volvo Car India Managing Director, Paul de Voijs says, “Showing the V70 will increase interest in water sports in general, and sailing in particular in India.”
Once at the Indian port, the yachts and the sailors will find place in the 2.5 acre travelling village that has been constructed on Wellingdon Island. “We have raised approximately Rs 40 crore in sponsorship for the Kochi stopover of the Volvo Race,” says Cochin Port Trust Chairman K Ramachandran. While Kerala seeks a generous boost to its tourism, a 137-stall trade fest is also on the agenda.
The race is part of a long term plan to get more sailing in the country. Ocean Blue Boating is shaping a marina in Kochi that will be serve as an opulent boating lifestyle destination. The existing port jetty has been extended to 127 metres in length to accommodate the fleet and the visiting luxury cruise liners that will dock to coincide with the event.
“India has hundreds of millions of enthusiastic sports fans, and we know they will enjoy this challenging race, with its passion, teamwork, adventure and excitement. It’s all about an active lifestyle, adventure and passion – in short, it’s life at the extreme,” says Paul de Voijs, emphasising the slogan for the race: “Life at the Extreme”.
Perhaps the generous waiver of the 10 million euro port fee for Kerala has been significant in escalating the process. “We had communicated to the organisers that we are not in a position to pay the port fee. But Kochi has been a natural choice on their route,” Ramachandran of Cochin Port Trust says.