Photo: Ainhoa Sanchez / Volvo Ocean Race

Let there be drones

Knut Frostad reveals plans for the next Volvo Ocean Race

Saturday May 16th 2015, Author: James Boyd, Location: United States

CEO Knut Frostad unveiled the future of the Volvo Ocean Race to stakeholders in a presentation on Saturday and set an ambition of eight to 10 boats for the next round the world race in 2017-18.

Frostad revealed that the costs for a newly built, Volvo Ocean 65 one-design had been pegged at the same basic price of €4.5million as it cost at its launch three years ago. “That’s a massive achievement,” he said.

All seven identical boats, which will finish the 12th edition in Gothenburg, Sweden, on 27 June, will be returned for use in 2017-18, but more will be built on demand.

“You could order a new boat from today,” said Frostad, although the eight-month construction would not actually start until from July, 2015. “We want new teams to join us – eight to 10 boats is the optimum – but our priority is to get as many existing teams as possible back on the start line.”

Frostad said improvements would be made to the existing Volvo Ocean 65s, which have been built to last for two races, although the current key elements of reliability and safety would remain central to the project.

The race will look into what can be done to improve the boats on a number of fronts including energy generation and consumption, and communications. These improvements will be announced at METS in Amsterdam over 17-19 November this year. The fleet would then be refitted between November 2016 and May 2017.

Frostad, CEO since 2008, added that a new and better sail design would be ready for delivery by 1 March, 2017, ahead of the next race scheduled to start in October that year.

He also admitted that the race needed to make it easier for new sponsors to enter and that would be spearheaded by a major editing of its rules book for teams and ports. This currently runs to 247 pages “and that’s too long”, said Frostad. The new, more concise version would be ready by September this year.

Frostad said he also wanted to see onboard communications improvements to keep pace with the ever-changing media landscape. One would be the introduction of GPS-directed camera drones, which could offer fans far more aerial coverage of the boats at sea than is currently available.

“Each boat will carry one of these drones. I’m 100% sure that will happen,” he said. He also announced plans for longer and better training for Onboard Reporters, starting in the summer of 2016.

The route for the next edition would be revealed in January that year. Several ports, including the start in Alicante, had already been settled for 2017-18 and Newport, Rhode Island, has been given a two-month exclusive period to negotiate a new deal for the next race.

“Newport has been a great success so far for us. I’ve been to an American stop seven times since I did my first race as a sailor and I cannot recall anything as good as this,” he said of the current stopover between Legs 6 and 7. It’s been a fantastic achievement and I’d like to congratulate Brad (Read) and his team.”

He added that the Governor and Senator of Rhode Island plus local politicians in Newport had given a return to the East Coast port in 2018 their backing.

Frostad also told the audience that across all areas, including media, television, social media and race village footfall, the current edition had shown strong growth.

He flagged, in particular, that the event had proved a much more effective vehicle for business-to-business activity than ever before. Before the Newport stopover, more than 19,000 business guests had attended and in the short, two-day pit stop next month in The Hague, 11,000 corporate places had been sold by the Dutch city alone. Frostad added that Gothenburg would “at least, match that number”. It meant that the previous record of 25,000 corporate guests achieved in the 2011-12 edition would be at least doubled by the end of the race on June 27.

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