[Source: Volvo Ocean Race] The British sailor talks about the return of Abu Dhabi in the Volvo Ocean Race with both a stopover and a team he will skipper:
About the team & stopover announcement:
“ Weave worked on this since the end of the race. We’ve put so much energy into the team in the last race; we just desperately wanted to see it carry on. I’m really pleased in that regard to see that Abu Dhabi Ocean lives on. And I guess for me personally, I’m thrilled because I get another chance at the race. I’ve not been happy with the positions we’ve finished in previous races. There has been a bunch of reasons behind it but with the new rule and the team behind us, for me it’s all about trying to win the Volvo Ocean Race.”
About the continuity with the sponsor:
“Abu Dhabi are a great sponsor and the continuity is really important. So much energy goes into setting up a team and understanding relations with your sponsor and what everybody is trying to achieve… You’ve got a big head start if you’ve got continuity from having done it before.
“It’s very easy to underestimate how much work goes into setting up and, in fact, setting down the Volvo Ocean Race. To be able to keep that going will be of real help. It means we can spend much more time focusing on the sailing side, which can help us winning the race.”
About the team:
“ I’ve certainly become a very popular person on email! We’re not employing anybody really; we’re employing our time working with the Tourism Authority on exactly what they want to do this year and to make a plan for training with the new boat next year. Obviously we’ve strong ideas about some people we want to have in the team and it would be great to keep a core group from last race. Again that’s adding to the continuity if you can keep the same people moving forward. But we also want to strengthen the scenario and to freshen things up a bit. So I think we’ll see a mixture with some people from before and hopefully some exciting new figures as well.”
About the One Design Volvo Ocean 65:
“Initially, I was one of the skippers who didn’t have an interest with a sail making or a boatbuilding company and I had the biggest boat background in One Design sailing compared to, say, a Franck Cammas or Mike Sanderson. And I struggled with the boat in the last two races so I’ve always been very keen on the One Design. And particularly because I’ve had to do with the commercial sides of these projects, I understand the commercial reality and the fact that if they didn’t change the rules, then there probably wouldn’t be another race. It would have been too expensive and people wouldn’t have had time to raise the money in order the design the boat. I’ve always been a big supporter of it.
“If it hasn’t been for the new rule, then I probably wouldn’t have done the Volvo Ocean Race again. It’s just too painful. Too much work goes into these projects and I think one of the biggest advantages is not just the reduction of the budget, but it’s the fact that anybody who invests in the Volvo Ocean Race, whether they start now or in six months’ time, know that they will have the same equipment and that they are gonna be competitive. That’s definitely going to be the tightest race in history – it has to be! All of which excites me. Having been so enthusiastic of it, I was even more desperate, I guess, to get a chance to race in a One Design race.
“As far as the boat is concerned, I haven’t been hugely involved in the details. I’ve been focused on making sure that we’ve a team in the race. They got good people. I have a lot of confidence in Farr Yacht Design and the people, who’ve been advising them. I’m perfectly confident that will be a good boat.”
About the team’s schedule:
“I’m in Abu Dhabi at least half the time and it makes it much easier to work with the Tourism Authority. We will almost certainly sail Azzam this year, maybe trying to break the Fastnet race record this summer and trying some potential crew and new ideas. The team won’t come together fully until the new boat is launched, which will probably be in the New Year. We’re also looking to do things in Abu Dhabi as well because there is more and more sailing in the region. We need to look at ways to involve the team and Abu Dhabi.”