Party of the year
The Volvo Ocean Race Legends Regatta and Reunion seems to have struck a chord and will see the largest ever gathering of yachts and competitors from the first ten editions of the round the world race with 15 boats attending, the maximum capacity that can fit on the dock in Alicante. The event takes place over 1-5 November in Alicante, shoehorned in between the Volvo Ocean Race Alicante in-port race on Saturday 29 October and the start of leg 1 proper on 5 November.
Having sailed from ports around Europe to take part, the Legends fleet, now assembled in Alicante, includes competitors from every edition of the race from the very first Whitbread Round the World Race in 1973-74 through to the 2008-09 Volvo Ocean Race.
From the inaugural Whitbread Race in 1973-74 will be the 55ft Tauranga from Italy, the British Royal Navy’s Adventure, represented by her sistership Dasher, which also competed in the 1997-98 race, and the 77ft maxi Great Britain II, the only yacht ever to take part in five consecutive Whitbread Round the World Races.
From the 1977-78 race will be the British 65ft sloop King’s Legend, along with the 57ft Berge Viking from Norway and the 65ft French yacht Gauloises III from the 1981-82 race.
Also from France will be the Lionel Pean-skippered L’Espirit d’Equipe, the winning yacht from the 1985-86 race.
Racing against each other for the first time since the 1989-90 race will be the maxi yachts Rothmans, Charles Jourdan, and the Kiwi maxi ketches Steinlager 2 and Fisher & Paykel.
Two Whitbread 60s will be competing: Heineken, the first of the class to be built which raced in the 1993-94 race as Heineken with an all-girl crew; as well as Assa Abloy from the 2001-02 race.
Representing the modern day Volvo Open 70 class will be Telefónica Black and Green Dragon, both Volvo Ocean Race competitors in 2008-09.
Two days of Legends racing will take place around inshore courses to maximise the viewing opportunities for spectators on the shore.
The fleet will race around a single course, but given the range of size and performance of the yachts, in an effort to ensure the races culminate in an exciting finish, a pursuit race format will be used, where the older, slower yachts are given a head start over the faster more modern ones.
In addition to the skippers and crews sailing in the Legends Regatta, event organisers are also preparing to welcome a 400+ contingent of competitors from past races to the Reunion, led by Legends Ambassadors Lady Pippa Blake, Tracy Edwards MBE, Sir Chay Blyth CBE, BEM, Magnus Olsson, Skip Novak, Pierre Fehlmann and Alain Gabbay.
The overall winner of the Volvo Ocean Race Legends Regatta will be presented with the Sir Peter Blake Trophy, a renamed antique trophy made in 1926 by Atkins Brothers of Sheffield, England.
The 33.5 cm hallmarked silver trophy will be presented by Lady Pippa Blake as a tribute to her late husband, Sir Peter Blake, who competed in the first five Whitbread Round the World Races and won all five legs of the 1989-90 edition aboard Steinlager 2.
In addition, on both race days special trophies and awards will be presented, including a memorial naval ceremonial sword trophy in honour of the long and valuable involvement with the race of past Whitbread Race CEO and Race Director, the late Ian Bailey-Wilmot.
The Volvo Ocean Race Legends Regatta features a full programme of events, beginning with a Welcome Cocktail Party at the Volvo Pavilion in the race village on the evening of Tuesday November 1.
On the morning of Wednesday November 2 the fleet will take part in a parade of sail before racing gets underway in the afternoon. According to event organiser Howard Gibbons, who was deeply involved in the event with Tracy Edwards' Maiden campaign in 1989-90 and subsequently with Lawrie Smith's campaigns, racing between the boats, given they are of such varying ages, will take the form of a pursuit races around land marks within the Bay of Alicante. That evening there will be a Cocktail Party in the Legends Café/Bar in the Alicante Race Village.
On Thursday 3 November the fleet will take part in another parade of sail before more racing in the afternoon. The Prizegiving Dinner will take place that evening at the Real Club de Regatas de Alicante.
Friday November 4 has been designated a lay day and a selection of the Legends yachts will be open for viewing by the public in the race village.
Friday morning will also see the launch of the book Sailing Legends, a history of the Whitbread and Volvo Ocean Races written by sailing journalists Bob Fisher and Barry Pickthall with photos from Getty Images, updating the first edition of their book Ocean Conquest which concluded with the 1989/90 race. The authors will take part in a book signing at the Volvo Ocean Race Club in the Alicante Race Village.
On Saturday November 5, the Legends fleet will take part in a final parade of sail before joining the spectator fleet to watch the six-boat Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12 fleet set off on Leg 1 to Cape Town, South Africa.
"Members of the public will be able to see the boats tied up in order of the races that they competed in," commented Gibbons. "We are going to make the after-race sessions with the skippers open too."
While the take-up for the event in terms of boat participants has reached capacity, the number of people attending, including ex-participants, has grown exponentially in recent weeks and from having a venue with a 400 capacity for the grand prize giving dinner on the Thursday night, Gibbons and Lizzie Ward have had to seek out a bigger venue. According to Gibbons in addition to the ambassadors mentioned above there is a Steinlager reunion and other VIPs attending include Sir Samuel Whitbread, members of the Royal Naval Sailing Association, who originally set up the event, along with a substantial French who have chartered Gauloises 3 including the Viant and Lunven families who were keen participants in the early Whitbreads. Perhaps the best story will be that Ramon Carlin, the Mexican skipper/owner of the Swan 65 Sayula II, winner of the first Whitbread Round the World Race plans to attend at the age of 84.
"Generally we hope a combination of a bit of racing, some stories and a bit of fun," says Gibbons. "There will certainly be some massive parties, if I have anything to do with it." Which he has.