The Volvo Ocean Race started in 1973 as the Whitbread Round the World Yacht Race with 19 teams and a 27,500 nautical mile course starting in Portsmouth, UK. 324 sailors set out on the first race, many not knowing the conditions that they would be facing on the open water. Three men lost their lives during this race with many other facing injury and disasters. Sayula II was the first victor in this Ocean race, skippered by Roman Carlin, a Mexican business man. His crew consisted of two Britons, a Dutchman, and Australian and five other Mexicans including his wife and son. The next race started in 1977 and subsequent races every 4 years.
The race sponsorship was taken over by Volvo starting with the 2001 race and various stopover points were added. Focus shifted and a new points system was created. Since then, this round the world race takes place every 3 years, generally starting in Europe and stopping in various and changing cities each time.
This year’s race is set to be the longest course yet – 39,379 nautical miles. This year’s race started in Alicante, Spain in October and has thus far seen Cape Town, South Africa, Abu Dahbi, United Arab Emirates, Sanya, China, Auckland, New Zealand, and after the longest leg of the race, Itajai, Brazil. On April 19th, the teams started their 5,010 nautical mile journey to Newport where they will remain until May 17th when they will continue the race to Lisbon, Portugal, Lorient, France, and finally end in Gothenburg, Sweden at the end of June.
Seven teams started in this year’s Volvo Ocean Race, with crews from 19 nationalities and the first all-female crew to enter the race in over a decade, making it the most diverse fleet in years. This year’s teams are Team SCA, Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, Dongfeng Race Team, Team Brunel, Team Alvimedica, Mapfre, and Team Vestas Wind. Vestas Wind’s boat is currently under repair after being stranded on a reef at Cargados Carajos Shoals in the Indian Ocean. The crew had to abandon the boat, which has since been recovered and brought to Italy for repair. They are working to get the boat back in the race for the last two legs starting in Lisbon.
Racing crews consist of eight sailors and one non-sailing multimedia reporter. The all-woman teams can race with 11 sailors and a multimedia reporter. Every team must have two members that are under 30. Each vessel qualifies by sailing 2,000 nautical miles non-stop.
Teams are estimated to arrive between May 5th and 9th and will remain in Newport until May 17th with various events leading up to the In-Port Race and the start of the Newport-Lisbon leg of the journey. Race Village will be open every day at Fort Adams State Park from 11am to 7pm. Guests will be able to see the race vessels docked at the pier, enjoy views of the racing action, hear commentary about the on-water activity, see team exhibitions and enjoy food and entertainment. Both weekends will feature youth sailing races and exhibition sailing.
The Pro-Am Race 1 will be held on May 14th and the Pro-Am Race 2 and 3 on the 15th. The Sailors Parade will be held on Saturday, May 16th leading up to the In-Port Race followed by the IPR Prize Giving Ceremony. The teams will then start the race to Lisbon on the 17th, following a Leg Restart Dock-Out Show from 11:30am to 12:15pm. Newport is going to be bustling with activity and in the racing spirit.