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Volvo Ocean Race 2008-09
An update by Glenn Bourke, CEO - Volvo Ocean Race

Dear Scuttlebutt reader,

(Friday, August 25, 2006) I have read with great interest and at times complete dismay regarding some of the recent comments about the last edition of the Volvo Ocean Race and our plans for the next one. Dismay, in that it appears some people feel we are actively trying to devalue the history and tradition of the race by incorporating the proposed changes. Dismay also, that it appears those same people believe we have not been listening to those constituents who have greater experience than ourselves.

I can tell you, neither is true. During the 8 months of the last race and again in the months post its conclusion, we have continued to listen to sailors, designers, sponsors, shore crew, team managers, the press, sports fans, non sports fans, industry leaders, billionaires, clubs, classes, ISAF, and even my mother (sorry if I have missed you from one of the above categories), to try to distil down the elements to make the next iteration of the race better than the last.

Take for example just the sailors. Iíve had long conversations with Mike Sanderson, Paul Cayard, Mark Christensen, Seb Josse, Tony Mutter, Horacio Carabelli, Tom Braidwood, Stan Honey, and many, many more. I did this as often as I could to get the most pertinent information to help direct us forward. And I donít believe we ever disregarded what they said, or professed to know more than they did. In fact, quite the opposite! We asked because sometimes the answers were not clear and we wanted to find the best solution and we valued their opinions. Our only objective was to do better.

Nor did Volvo play any manipulative role in the format. My bosses, the Board members of the Volvo Ocean Race, very much let us absorb the information and try to make the best decisions for the future of the event on their behalf. And better than that, they stood behind the event, supporting it as actively as they possibly could. They considered our impact on this great sport in general and they were there for the counting each and every time I needed it. Letís face it, there were some times, when with all the breakdown and tragedy. it would have been far easier for them to try to distance themselves from what we had created. But they did not shy away. Nor did they run away when the decision needed to be made for the future of the race. They had enjoyed their participation in this sport you and I feel so passionate about and what is even better than that, they thought from the purely commercial perspective that it was valuable and worth continuing with. For me this is perhaps the most important point of all.

Arguably, during the course of those 8 months we may have produced some of the best sailboat racing footage everÖÖÖ one might ask how did that occur? It happened, in my view, because of a few key factors:

1) The new VO70 helped. The fastest ocean racing monohull in the world, exciting footage, huge speed, wild manoeuvres. The in-port racing helped too; who can forget the footage in Cape Town and these crews racing in squirts of up to 44 knots, tested to the absolute limit. I donít know many classes that can get around a short course relatively unscathed under those conditions, but I can tell you that the thousands of corporate spectators who came to watch the sailing, some of them for the first time, were absolutely blown away. And, if just one of those spectators was inspired by the spectacle, then perhaps we had done a good thing for the sport.

2) The teams themselves helped, in the affiliation they had with their home ports and nations. Movistar and Spain, Brasil 1 and Brazil, Pirates and the US, ABN AMRO and the Netherlands, Brunel and Australia, all of whom helped create an audience with parochial fervour, which was another idea we actively tried to encourage for this race.

3) The skippers, letís not forget them. As great articulators in general, they told the story of their own triumph and tragedy as bravely and as humanly as has ever been done, allowing the dedicated few on their crews to film, interview, edit and send all those images that made the coverage colourful for the viewer.

Will the race change because we are taking a detour from the traditional route to an area of huge population but little exposure to our sport? I certainly hope not! Will it be easy to sail 35,000 miles around the globe and win the next Volvo Ocean Race because of the detour? I donít know, perhaps you ought to ask Sanderson or Cayard or Grael, but I doubt it! Will it be negative for the sport in general, if large international corporations see those markets as a reason to sponsor a team in the next race, where they might not have previously? Again, I canít see it myself.

While I have your attention, let me straighten out a few facts, because it appears that not everybody is aware of our basic proposal for the future.

With regards to the Volvo Open 70 rule itself, we will change it only to attempt to improve the durability of the boats themselves and where possible, level the playing field. We are doing this in consultation with designers, engineers, approval authorities, insurers, and a broad cross section of sailors.

The crew numbers will remain the same for an all male crew but may increase to 12 and 14 respectively for mixed and womenís crews. I would like to also point out that at least as many of the current VO70 sailors I have spoken to told me to keep the number of crew the same or reduce it, as have asked me to increase it.

The route will start in Alicante, Spain in late 2008. The proposed route from there will be around the Cape of Good Hope to the Middle East (a very long leg and probably with part of it in the Southern Ocean). From the Middle East to the Sub Continent and on to South East Asia and then China. From there, to Australia or New Zealand, with a Southern Ocean leg around Cape Horn to Brazil. From there the traditional route will kick in, with ports and nations who provide entries getting the highest priority.

The in-port races will remain as part of the format, as will pit-stops.

Finally, to everyone out there still reading this, please understand, we donít profess to have all the answers. We are simply trying to do our best, to learn from our mistakes and correct them, to improve the things we have done well and, to create an event at the pinnacle of our sport. One which is watched and enjoyed by millions, that stacks up commercially, and hopefully in some small way inspires people to participate in sailing. They are our objectives. If you love sailing, I find it hard to imagine how you could condemn us for trying.

Many thanks for your time Ė Glenn Bourke

CEO - Volvo Ocean Race

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