The Race is On
The second Volvo Ocean Race will start from Europe in the autumn of 2005 it has been confirmed this morning by Hans-Olov Olsson, President of Volvo Car Corporation, Jorma Halonen, President of Volvo Trucks and representing the Volvo Group, and Helge Alten, current Chief Executive of the Volvo Ocean Race.
Jorma Halonen commented, "we within the Volvo Group found it very easy to make the decision to support the continuation of this race. The media returns have been overwhelming, and the response within the Volvo Group has been very positive. We are looking forward to another successful event starting in 2005, and I can assure you that we, within Volvo, feel a strong commitment to develop the race to even higher levels of success".
At present no firm details about the 2005/6 race have been confirmed but there have been various meetings in Gothenburg this weekend with the current Volvo Ocean Race campaigns and yacht designers. Volvo have acknowledged that there are some key areas which need to be addressed. Most important is to check the escalating cost of campaign budgets which are currently said to be between $12 and $22 million with a view to having more than 10 boats on the start line of the next race.
There are many ways that Volvo could do this - from reducing the duration of the race, shortening stopovers, reducing the number of crew, sailing the race in one designs or having some sort of one design component to the boats. If Volvo introduced a one design hull for example, they could also dictate how long prior the race syndicates could get their new boats. This would prevent a costly illbruck/America's Cup style three year run up to the next race. Placing further limitations on the sail wardrobe will also help. However Volvo must take care not to limit these aspects of the race so much that the event loses its Grand Prix feel.
The stopovers are also a key issue. At present the view is that there are too many stopovers in this race, that they are too long and that they cause the event to lose momentum. Stopovers are obviously critical for campaign and race sponsors alike and Volvo are currently looking at ways they can enliven stopovers, by for example, introducing some short course racing during the stops which will count in the overall points. There is also likely to be a reapraisal of where the race stops with a view to taking it to places where it is popular and receives support. With large crowds in Gothenburg jostling to catch a glimpse of the boats it would seem that Volvo view this as a success whereas the one man and his dog who stumbled upon the race in Ocean Village in September might not.
Volvo are also saying that it is the media coverage, exceeding every expectation, that has been a draw for them to return. The statistics taken from two thirds of the way into the race are indeed impressive - the race has reached 650 million TV viewers, more through radio distribution with the BBC World Service an Voice of America, while the website www.volvooceanrace.org has almost reached 3 million unique users since launch (no doubt due to its excellent content).
The event will continue to be managed by Volvo Event Management from the race Head Quarters in Whiteley.
The Notice of Race including the course details will be published in Spring 2003, while a decision about the boats - whether they will change or be a one design or a box rule - will be announced this autumn.