[OPINION] Polos vs. PUMA: America’s Cup and Volvo Ocean Race Comparison

This is an opinion piece. The author’s views do not necessarily reflect the views of Racing Winds, America’s Cup Regatta Management, or Volvo Ocean Race. The author’s views do not necessarily reflect any of the people named in this article.

After I wrote Racing Winds and was invited to the Volvo Ocean Race stopover in Boston, my mom and I had different expectations for the race village. She expected it to be preppy dress; button-down polos, khakis, Top-Siders. Sure, those kinds of people were there, but for every one of that type of people, there were three wearing big Ericsson jackets and PUMA high boots.

This analogy is kind of the difference between the America’s Cup and the Volvo Ocean Race. The America’s Cup has always been regarded as kind of the traditional regatta. High rollers in Ralph Lauren attire drinking Long Island Ice Teas are the main attendees. During their day jobs, they’re the execs of Silicon Valley companies and have some serious bucks to spend.

No, I’ve never been to an America’s Cup, but thats the stereotype that I feel is present (and I live in Annapolis, a pretty sailing-savvy town). The Volvo Ocean Race, on the other hand, is more of an extreme sport. Anyone who spends nine months sailing over 39,000 miles of the world’s toughest oceans is clearly a hardcore sailor. When I attended the Volvo Ocean Race in Boston, one of my favorite activities was people watching.

There were a lot of families, lots of older people, and not as many affluent people. Of course, there was still plenty of money flying around (especially at the cash register at PUMA City), but it had more of a rogue vibe than that stereotypical America’s Cup. That’s not to say that one is better than the other, or one is more affluent than the other. The bottom line is that the America’s Cup is what most people think about sailing: refined, preppy, and wealthy. The Volvo Ocean Race, on the other hand, may surprise some people when they realize what a really hardcore race it really is.