Nationality and the sport of sailing; what defines the nationality of a sailing team?

Posted on 30 January 2014 by Valencia Sailing

As we already announced yesterday, Turkey wrote a new page in sailing history by entering for the first-time ever in the Volvo Ocean Race, the premiere round-the-world race.

The team is solely backed by Alvimedica, a Turkish manufacturer of medical devices, and the official presentation of the team took place today, Thursday, in Istanbul. The CEO of Alvimedica, Cem Bozkurt, is an avid sailor himself, owns a Farr 40 and in the last four years, Alvimedica Sailing Team has been very active in the country’s sailing scene.

More importantly, the Team Alvimedica VO65 will be flying the Turkish flag!

Nevertheless, reading the official press release on the Volvo Ocean Race website, one would think that Team Alvimedica is a a purely American team, brainchild of two young American sailors, that happened to find a Turkish corporate sponsor… There is extensive mention of Charlie Enright’s and Mark Towill’s past and their efforts to mount a viable Volvo Ocean Race campaign. While their efforts and ambitions are truly admirable and their achievement even more remarkable, the team wouldn’t have come to fruition without Alvimedica, Cem Bozkurt and his interest in the sport of sailing.

It is true that Turkish sailors completely lack the offshore experience needed for one of the world’s toughest races but so did the Emirati and Chinese sailors before them.

This is how Team Sanya was defined on the official website in the 2011-12 Volvo Ocean Race: “Chinese entry Team Sanya will be looking to stamp their mark on the race, with Volvo Ocean Race veteran and two-time winner Mike Sanderson as skipper and a mixture of experienced sailors and raw Chinese members.” Team Sanya had just one Chinese sailor onboard, “Tiger” Teng Jianghe, while the skipper and another six sailors were New Zealanders. Following the same logic, Team Sanya should have been called a New Zealand entry with a Chinese sponsor.

Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing was the brainchild of Ian Walker and Jamie Boag. Without any doubt Walker and Boag deserve huge credit for taking the top-end of the sport of sailing to the Middle East and their team was heralded on the Volvo Ocean Race website as “the first team from the United Arab Emirates to enter the race.” There was just one Emirati onboard Azzam, Adil Khalid. Did that make it an Anglo-Saxon team that happened to have an Emirati sponsor?

Race organizers and the Volvo Group certainly have their eyes set on the all-important US market and the inclusion of a local story will undoubtedly drive media and marketing interest there. However, we think that calling Team Alvimedica an American team is far-fetched.

Actually, the question should be what defines the nationality of a sailing team nowadays. Is it true that an Australian-Kiwi team funded by an American billionaire won the America’s Cup last September in San Francisco? Similarly, an affiliate of Team New Zealand, funded by a Swiss billionaire, won it twice, in 2003 and 2007!

When it’s a USA boat with a single US sailor on board then it’s a US winner! When it’s a Turkish boat with a US crew on board and a single Turk then it’s, again, a US winner!

1 Comments For This Post

  1. Rob Weiland Says:

    Maybe the sport is the winner?

    Only if there is a nationality rule in place it should be respected strictly.


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