Spanish Armada Regrouping. English Lose Volvo Ocean Race HQ.

The Volvo Ocean Race is to move its headquarters from the south coast of England to Alicante, Spain. Perhaps bigger news is that the deal spans the next three editions of the race, giving teams and sponsors a real roadmap for the event going into the future.

The news underlines the difference between the way different cities and governments view top level sport and the changing demographics of global sailing. While the UK focusses on the 2012 Olympics and it’s crazy obsession with football (soccer), it is losing big events to countries that understand the economic benefits.

Knut Frostad, CEO of the race said:

“This is a great moment for the Volvo Ocean Race. One of our goals, as we’ve looked ahead to the next race, has been to establish long-term relationships with our stopover ports, and, for economic reasons, to base our headquarters in one of the stopover ports. But this only makes sense when both parties can make a long-term commitment. And that’s the partnership we are announcing today with Alicante.

Spain has played a significant part in recent editions of the race. Spanish sailors outnumber all other nations in the current competition and Spain has shown consistently that it understands event culture, and how to organise sporting competition.

Francisco Camps, President of the Region of Valencia said:

“The impact of hosting the start of the Volvo Ocean Race in Alicante last October was very positive for the city, the region and all of Spain. Today’s agreement means Spain will build on its status as a centre of excellence for sailing for years to come.”

The Volvo Ocean Race headquarters has been in Hampshire, England since 1998, a hangover from when the race was called the Whitbread. The UK’s sailing industry and local governments are struggling to get support for the country’s biggest sailing event – Cowes Week, so it is unsurprising that they lack the imagination and vision to invest in keeping the Volvo Ocean Race.

It is hard to imagine the UK putting together a package that included a race museum and providing assistance to teams who want to relocate to the city.

The race museum and interactive exhibition will celebrate the 36-year history and heritage of the race. The first phase is scheduled for completion in 2010.

“The museum and interactive exhibition is very important for us,” Frostad added. “This race has a long and storied history. The museum and interactive exhibition will celebrate that heritage and provide a link between our future in Alicante and our past racing around the world.”

The UK had better hope that the OC Group continue to call the Solent home. The company is a shining light that along with the well funded Vendee Globe teams and Team Origin prove that there is the expertise to keep the UK in the limelight. But without government support at all levels the country will continue to lose big sporting events, jobs and investment.