Despite the financial crisis that has crippled the sponsorship market in the sport of sailing, it appears that Knut Frostad, CEO of Volvo Ocean Race, will manage to pull this off and have at least seven boats on the starting line in Alicante a year from now. In addition to Team SCA and Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, we should expect teams from the Netherlands, Spain, New Zealand, Great Britain and China. Although at times we have been critical of Frostad, the measures taken last year were certainly life-saving. Bringing costs down was the only way to ensure that the race wouldn’t disappear or that there wouldn’t be just two or three entries.
The organizers of the 35th America’s Cup should probably borrow a page or two from Frostad’s book if they are sincere in their talk about multiple challengers. With an America’s Cup campaign cost of at least US$ 100 million, there is no way whatsoever that any challenger that doesn’t have the initial backing of a billionaire will make it to the Louis Vuitton Cup. Even the almighty Team New Zealand, the world’s only exception to that rule, will need government funding to kick start its campaign. However, Larry Ellison might not even want multiple challengers but just a handful of billionaires that play with him!
Back to the Volvo Ocean Race now and the latest update on what our sources deem to be the most possible lineup in Alicante:
The all-female crew entry, backed by Swedish forest-product multinational SCA, is undoubtedly, the most advanced and visible of all the official and potential entries. Not only are they fully-funded, they have been training with a VOR70 for the last few months, they have hired most of their crew, they have established a training base in Puerto Calero and, most importantly, two days ago they were officially handed their racing VO65 yacht.
The pink and white VO65, the first one of the eight units scheduled to be built, successfully went through the pull-down test a week ago and then went for her maiden sail three days later. The Swedish VO65 will most probably head to Lanzarote in the following days where she will spend the next months for an intensive winter-training period.
Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing
The team skippered by Ian Walker and funded by the wealthy emirate of Abu Dhabi is the second official entry in next year’s race. Although not advanced as Team SCA in their planning, Abu Dhabi have been very active in the last few months, training and racing on their VOR70 Azzam. They should be receiving their brand new VO65 in the next weeks and there is no doubt further official announcements will follow as well. With such a strong financial backer, there isn’t much to worry about.
This is probably one of the strongest and most plausible efforts, led by Team Heiner sailing events organization together with Dutch VOR veterans Gerd-Jan Poortman and Bouwe Bekking. They are aiming at a reasonable budget of 16 million euros and when we bumped into Bekking at the Maxi Yacht Worlds in Porto Cervo, he sounded very enthusiastic about the prospects and hinted that it wouldn’t be long before we hear an official confirmation.
Team New Zealand
Team New Zealand was rumored to enter the 2014-15 Volvo Ocean Race, regardless of the outcome of the 34th America’s Cup. It is only logical that their defeat in San Francisco makes that scenario even more realistic. We understand that Camper, the Spanish shoe manufacturer, will be again with the Kiwis but it’s not sure whether they will back the team to the extent they did in 2011-12. There is talk of a “big” Russian sponsor as well but we haven’t been able to gather any credible and reliable information on that. We wouldn’t be surprised though if it were Gazprom…
Spain / Pedro Campos
Pedro Campos is said to be near a final deal that will allow him to enter the Volvo Ocean Race for the fourth time. It seems that Spanish insurance group MAPFRE will be the main sponsor and the 15-million euro target will be achieved with the addition of three-four secondary commercial partners.
Nevertheless, Campos, in a recent article in Spain’s El Pais newspaper was painting a much bleaker picture. According to his comments, “we are fighting, struggling to move ahead. It’s hard due to the crisis and the general business situation. It is certainly the most difficult year to find financial backing. Sailing has lost many sponsors and the debacle of Madrid 2020 has been another stick in the wheels of project financing.”
Are Campos’ comments sincere or just a bargaining tool in order to force Knut Frostad and the Volvo Ocean Race organization to lower the price of the VO65′s? We will know in the next few weeks.
Our sources are sure that there will be a British team in this edition of the round-the-world race, even if they are short on details. The official announcement of the entry from the United Kingdom shouldn’t take long as it seems it’s a “done deal”. We will just have to wait.
With China now having become the most important market for every major multinational, the fact the Volvo group is keen to have a local entry shouldn’t come as a surprise, especially considering the fact Volvo Cars is Chinese-owned. As a result, it seems there will be a Chinese boat that will cross the starting line in Alicante, a year from now. However, unlike all previous editions, this is destined to be a “real” Chinese entry, funded by Zhejiang Geely Holding, the Chinese parent of the Volvo Cars group.
Although it will be skippered by a well-known European sailor, Chinese sailors will not be simple figureheads. According to our sources, the aim is to have onboard as many locals as possible and portray an image of a proper Chinese team. Our sources indicate that Mark Turner and OC Sport will manage the team. However, when we contacted Turner he denied having any involvement, stating that they “didn’t have any Volvo Ocean Race project in place today.”