As the Vendee Globe comes to an end, offshore racing fans have been making comparisons between the French solo race and the high-tech team based Volvo Ocean Race. Some, particularly in the UK, are whinging about a lack of soul and generally indulging in nostalgic fantasy that it was better when it was called the Whitbread…
Volvo Race CEO, Knut Frostad, who presented passionately about the race at last year’s World Yacht Racing Forum in Monaco, has rightly pointed out that the Volvo Ocean Race is now a global product.
“… I realise that we may have lost some of the passion from our traditional audience, in particular in the UK. And this I do take seriously. Spain and the Netherlands have more people following the race than ever.”
The Volvo Ocean Race is the ONLY yacht racing event that has a footprint in all of the ‘BRIC’ emerging markets. (BRIC stands for Brazil, Russia, India and China). Frostad is absolutely right to innovate and bring sailing to these markets. Frostad makes a great point when he says:
“Having been part of this race for more than 15 years, it has been an amazing experience this time around to engage with new audiences around the world.
Not only in India and China but also people who has never before been interested in sailing, who have learned to sail through our internet game and new generations who where not even born when Whitbread had its glory days.”
This is important to remember as work starts on the port selection for the 2011 edition of the race. The Race will be looking for a similar routing for the next event with a likely return to Asia. The stopover ports in the current edition have seen record visitor numbers with close to 1 million visitors at the start in Alicante last October and in Cochin in India.
Race organisers are asking interested ports to get in touch. We hope that Frostad and the team stick to their guns and keep innovating the race to make it a truly global event. Sports like Formula One have shown that Europe has to step up to keep traditional events. Just as Silverstone has to justify it’s place alongside new markets like the middle east and Singapore, so too do traditional sailing markets have to show that they can support and grow events like the Volvo Ocean Race and provide as much value as new stopovers like Cochin.
The Volvo Ocean Race should be congratulated for looking forwards, not romantically remembering the good-ol-days.