An ocean of endurance
A passion for adventure
The Volvo Ocean Race is one of the world’s toughest sporting challenges – a true test of teamwork and human adventure. And for the 2017-18 race, the teams will cover 45,000 nautical miles across four oceans, stopping at 12 host cities on six continents. The event will take just over eight months, during which competitors will get minimal sleep, endure maximum physical hardships, and get pummelled by the world’s roughest oceans and worst weather.
The Volvo Ocean 65 yachts designed specially for the event are among the world’s fastest and toughest sailing boats. Built to one common specification, they ensure that victory doesn’t come as a result of a technical or equipment advantage, but from the best teamwork and sailing skills (plus a huge amount of effort).
“You push yourself to your mental and physical limits and that’s what attracts people to the race,” says Richard Mason, the event’s Chief Operating Officer, who has competed in four Volvo Ocean Races.
“There is so much passion and emotion tied up in the Volvo Ocean Race. It is a very real and raw experience. You can see it in the eyes of those who have competed. They’ve done it. They can do things that most people can’t.”
The majesty of the ocean
“There are times when you’re scared and you wonder why you do this,” says Martin Strömberg, a three-time competitor and member of the winning crew in 2011-12. “When the waves are big and the wind is very strong, it can be frightening. I was on a boat when we broke a big section of the bow and took on water. That was on my first Volvo Ocean Race and happened on the way to China just off the coast of Taiwan. Luckily we were close to land. We fixed the boat and we won the next leg.
“That was probably the worst storm I’ve experienced. The waves were 14 metres high. We could see a big cargo ship nearby and the waves were crashing over this 300-metre ship, from the bow right to its stern.”
But there are moments of supreme calm and beauty: “It’s sometimes marvellous just to appreciate the sheer majesty of the ocean and realise how lucky you are to be there. The phosphorescence when the sea glows, the dolphins catching the fish, or the calmness of the vast ocean and the brightness of the stars so far from city lights.”
Protecting the future
The sailors also get the satisfaction of knowing that they are making a difference. Sam Davies, who skippered the all-female Team SCA boat in 2014-15, says that the Volvo Ocean Race can help highlight the importance of safeguarding our oceans. “We went to places where no one else has been before where we saw amazing things – dolphins, whales, seabirds, coastlines, sunrises and sunsets. And we shared those experiences, to tell schoolchildren that the oceans are still wonderful and that it’s not too late to save them for the generations that come after.”
Sustainability is a crucial element of the Volvo Ocean Race, which has signed up to the United Nations Environment’s Clean Seas campaign. Clean Seas aims to reduce the amount of plastic dumped in our oceans (currently running at eight million tonnes a year), and for the Volvo Ocean Race these changes start at the most fundamental level.
“We have to minimise our own impact,” says Volvo Ocean Race CEO Mark Turner. “We are reducing and eliminating single-use plastics in our Race Villages. Each host venue must have a plan to deal with plastic waste. It’s all part of our drive to turn the tide on plastic.”
“We are reducing and eliminating single-use plastics in our Race Villages. Our goal is to leave a legacy.”
Volvo Ocean Race CEO
The event’s global reach provides a very visible platform to broadcast this message – and to shape the future. “We are using it to change people’s views and behaviour,” says Mark Turner. “Our goal is to leave a legacy. We go to 12 host cities and in each location we are able to impact, influence, change views. Every city gets an education programme for children that helps them understand the importance of looking after the world’s oceans.”
One of the most visible embodiments of the message in this year’s event will be the yacht Turn The Tide On Plastic, backed by the Mirpuri Foundation and the Ocean Family Foundation. Both are committed to cleaning up the oceans and welcome the opportunity presented by the Volvo Ocean Race to raise awareness.
Volvo Cars supports the Volvo Ocean Race because it embodies so many common values. “People are at the core of Volvo,” says project manager Cindy Wang. “We are a people-focused company. That’s the same for the Volvo Ocean Race. It’s also about innovation, protecting what’s important, teamwork, challenging the elements and having a winning mentality. The Volvo Ocean Race is very motivating for every Volvo employee and every member of the Volvo family.”
The race to the horizon
The fascinating background and history of the Volvo Ocean Race have turned it into one of the best-known and toughest endurance races in the sporting calendar. For four and a half decades, participants have challenging themselves and each other as they sail its course. In this article, we will trace the race back to its beginning - and beyond, looking at the developments that shaped modern sea travel and made it possible in the first place. We trace the history of the race all the way back to the opening of the Panama and Suez canals, and then how - decades later - Robin Knox-Johnson became the first man to sail single-handedly round the planet. We then describe the foundation of the race in the 70s, and the developments that turned it into the event we know today - with its cutting-edge boats, teams of world champion sailors and non-stop coverage.
The race for perfection
In this article, we visit the Volvo Ocean Race Boatyard in Lisbon, Portugal. Here, we meet the team of experts responsible for repairing and re-fitting the entire fleet of Volvo Ocean 65 boats that will compete in the 2017-18 edition of the Volvo Ocean Race. We describe each team member’s individual area of expertise and show how the team works together to ensure that each boat is repaired identically, on time and to the highest possible standard. Their expertise in different areas represents the same level of competence you find at a Volvo workshop. We also meet Swedish sailor Martin Strömberg, who won the 2011-12 edition of the race, to find out what a great service programme gives him as a sailor.
An ocean of endurance
It’s the supreme test of teamwork, communication and physical endurance – guiding a boat on an eight-month journey of 45,000 nautical miles, using the power of the wind alone. This is the Volvo Ocean Race.