At the World Yacht Racing Forum in 2008, Knut Frostad, CEO of the Volvo Ocean Race suggested in a question from the floor to an America’s Cup panel, that if the cup was more responsible to stakeholders, specifically sponsors, the parties would be forced to find ways to move forward. While traditionalists are thrilled by and defend the right of a couple of rich blokes to spend their personal fortunes on mounting envelope pushing campaigns, events like the Volvo Ocean Race and the iShares Cup must innovate to provide commercial returns for sponsors.
The Volvo Ocean Race has faced their critics head on, and this weekend they held another of their round-table meetings to let stakeholders know what is being planned for the next race. The decisions show that the organisers are listening and prepared to change their behaviour to ensure the long term value of the event.
The focus on Sunday remained on changes that increase value for participants in the Volvo Ocean Race. Amongst the many subjects covered, the evolution to the format of a typical race stopover schedule for the next edition of the race was particularly important. The stopovers will be designed around a two-week format, with the ETAs for the finish of a leg comprising the first weekend, a ‘Festival of Sail’ on the middle weekend, not including the VO70s, then the Pro-Am, In-Port races and leg start on the third weekend. The only downside of this Frostad admits is that these races will be canned if the weather doesn’t co-operate on the day. This will allow more time for the shore crews to work on their boats, a longer recuperation period for the sailors between legs, and a more focused crescendo for both public and VIP guests on the final weekend.
The race organisers are now setting about sealing deals with the other stopover ports. As of today, 81 ports around the world have expressed interest. This includes 38 in Europe, five in Africa, four in the Middle East, 11 in India and Far East, six in Australia/New Zealand, 13 in Latin America and five in North America.
The selection of host cities will change. Whereas for this race, stopovers have tended to coincided with where teams come from (eg we are in Boston where Puma have their HQ), this has occasionally resulted in the present race visiting ports where the local government has been fully behind the race coming to town.
“We need to know that the cities who want the race, REALLY want the race,”
In the port bidding process this time, domestic political support will come first and if they can field or support a team then so much the better. Alicante for example are indicating that they will help put two Spanish teams into the next Volvo Ocean Race and the local government are expected to offer other incentives, such as tax benefits for teams wishing to base themselves from there, similar to those enjoyed in Valencia by those involved with the last America’s Cup. A building has already been allocated to the race – a long thin job running alongside the port that was home to the race organization and media centre prior to the start and this is to be extended to include a fixed exhibition about the race that will become a tourist attraction for Alicante.
The goal is have the full race route decided and announced by March 2010.
The Volvo Ocean Race is not the America’s Cup. The race organisers are not constrained by some archaic peice of paper and they do have the autonomy to change rules as and when they like, however – the Volvo Ocean Race, like any professional sporting event is only relevant if teams enter and fans watch. Therefore decisions need to be made in the best interests of all stakeholders. Knut Frostad and his team are showing that sailing can be a global professional sporting platform.
What do Volvo Ocean Race stars Paul Cayard and Mike Sanderson think?