[UPDATED] Volvo Ocean Race Announces Seventh Entry

Update 11:09 pm: Sailing Scuttlebutt spoke with Mike Sanderson regarding his team’s Volvo bid in their latest issue.

What is the objective of the team?The objective is that China is seen as an ocean-racing nation. When I was asked if I was prepared to do this, I obviously had to look at the big picture, and decide what the challenges were. And the challenge for me is doing better with a team of people nobody else thought could do it. This is about developing awareness in China, and for the Chinese to get the wave of momentum behind the Volvo Ocean Race. I am not held back when I speak to people: it’s also in the hope that this is a stepping stone for another campaign in the next race, with a rotation of Chinese sailors onboard and on the shore crew to grow the sailing culture amongst the Chinese. A careful budget fits the objectives we have for his race; it’s all about dipping the nations toe in water. We will be trying to overachieve in this one and hope to encourage bigger things in the generations to come.

Which boat will you use?

I wish I could say. We are still in the process and it has been an interesting debate. We looked at every boat that was in the race last time. We thought Ericsson 4 was our target, but then we quickly had to see what we wanted to achieve out of this race. One of the options was getting the winner from the last race and as many points as possible. And the other one was getting a boat that could get us onto the podium in all conditions. We are in the process of looking at all of the boats and there’s one that’s a candidate. We will announce it in about ten days.

How competitive do you think an old boat can be?

We have to be very careful with modifications to the boat to maintain its grandfather status. But we have a bulb weight advantage and keel weight advantage. A few things we have thought are: Ericsson 4 was fast at the start, il mostro was fast upwind and Telefónica was fast in light wind. We have to work with weather models to see what are ideal characteristics. The five new boats have to be angled to be good at high speed.  With sails restriction this time, you could put yourself in a corner. This next Volvo Ocean Race is going to be the most competitive one we’ve ever seen. Looking at all the teams, it’s very hard to make differences between the boats.  So we may have to position ourselves slightly differently for this campaign. But we will be there to pounce when another teams are having a bad leg. When I was asked if we could be compared to a small F1 team, who gets out the way of the bigger teams, I replied this will not be happening!

Is the campaign for one or two editions?

It’s a good question. I am always very wary about teams announcing two before they have even done one. But I think this is genuinely a campaign with far higher aspirations then what time is going to allow us to achieve. We are unable to build new boat for this time and we have been careful with the budget to make sure we shoot for what was achievable and make sure it will happen. This campaign is about over-delivering. The plan is to work on version one and then version two, but right now the focus is 100% on this campaign.

How many Chinese sailors will sail on each leg? 

The idea is to rotate between the Chinese sailors. We would love to think we could get 4, but we would always have at least 1.  The plan would be to have 3 or 4 on the sailing team, and for 1 or 2  to be onboard at a time. It will not be the MCM because we need the Chinese sailors in front of the camera and not behind, I am very aware that to get the Chinese to follow us, we need the Chinese sailors in front of the camera. We are trying to come up with a group of people with enough experience to be safe and good learners at the same time.

Who is on the line-up? There have been rumours of an Irish crew.

It’s still very early from a crew selection point of view. We try to keep it under the radar as much as possible. Hiring 10 sailors would have been giveaway. We need a good mix of experienced, under 30, and Chinese sailors. And we are very likely have an Irishman onboard. It’s very early but we have done a short list now and everybody would be fantastic, but it’s a matter of making it all work and ticking the right boxes. And we are looking forward to the Galway stopover, hopefully it will be as welcoming as it was with Green Dragon.

For someone who has won two races, what qualities do you think are needed for a winning crew?

The Volvo Ocean Race is a people race. I always say that fast people make fast boats. I think back to ABN AMRO, where we were lucky enough to win. The team created a boat and sailed it the way they it was intended. The Volvo Ocean Race has always been about people and there is no doubt that this next race will be all about people. I’m sure that if you lined up all the Volvo Ocean Race sailors, you would never see an upset one.

It’s about getting a group people that want to work together and share the same goal of holding trophy above their heads.

I’m realistic about what we can achieve this time, but whether this time or next, I still have the same dream.

Will you be getting the top boys from ABN AMRO? How easy is it to get people to join?

The timing is good in the sailing world. There are a lot more America’s Cup sailors around now.

The Volvo Ocean Race sailors are getting older. But the guys from ABN AMRO and Illbruck are still in the game, so the pool to pick from is getting bigger. I’ve been blown away by how many people there are to choose from.

At least five or six fast helmsmen from ABN AMRO could do it again. A fast helmsman would do a lot for the race.

I am very pleased to see who is available and keen to do the Volvo Ocean Race.

When do you plan coming to Europe?

If we get it all together in time, we would like to do the Fastnet.  The South coast of England would be a good base so we can be ready to enter the race.

But we haven’t even asked if this possible yet, it’s too early in timing. First comes buying the boat and the refit. It would be great to have the boat even a week before and get out there.

Original post via Volvo Ocean Race

China revealed its first entry in the Volvo Ocean Race today and announced that Mike Sanderson, one of the world’s leading sailors and past winner of the race, would lead Team Sanya.

Despite its huge technical and financial resources, the most populous nation on the planet has never won a round-the-globe sailing competition but intends to make the breakthrough, with the recruitment of New Zealander Mike Sanderson as skipper.

Sanderson, 40, is a two-time winner of the Volvo Ocean Race and will chase a hat trick of triumphs with a crew that mixes experienced sailors with relatively raw Chinese members.

Team Sanya is the seventh world-class contender to join this year’s race, with Sanderson going head-to-head with some of the sailing’s biggest names.

“This is a fantastic opportunity to race under the flag of such a great country and culture,” said Sanderson today at the Team Sanya launch in central Beijing.

“We are building up a strong team and are ready to take on this exciting challenge. Our approach will be one of compelling intent, working fast and smart, representing this great country and team with ambition, dynamism and colourful energy.”

China, as is the case in many sports, has incredible potential within sailing and a win in the Volvo Ocean Race would be a huge boost to its ambitions.

Li Quanhai, Vice Chairman of the China Yacht Association said: “China is a sports power and has abundant marine resources. Our involvement in top sailing events, such as the Olympic Regatta and the Volvo Ocean Race, greatly improves the development of China’s water sports.

Knut Frostad, CEO of Volvo Ocean Race said: “We are very excited about the news of Team Sanya and the return of Mike Sanderson, a veteran and true ambassador of the Volvo Ocean Race.

“This will be the seventh entry for the next edition and will not only bring a competitive yacht to our first class field but also will allow China to build on its already large sailing following.

“Team Sanya will allow the Chinese sailing fans to connect with the Volvo Ocean Race again and will be an amazing platform to engage with new audiences and attract potential tourists to Sanya and China itself.”

For the Deputy Mayor of Sanya, Wu Yanjun, the city known as the “Hawaii of the Orient” would directly benefit from this opportunity. “Hosting world class events like the Volvo Ocean Race will directly improve our sailing and yachting related facilities.”

The stopover will be in Luhuitou Bay, Sanya, where construction is expected to finish in August 2011. When completed, the facility will be a world-class marina.

China was previously represented in the 2008-2009 edition by Green Dragon, a jointly backed venture with Ireland and there will again be an Irish flavour to the Team Sanya challenger with Discover Ireland, promoting Irish tourism, renewing its commitment as a secondary sponsor.

Helly Hansen will be the Official Clothing Partner to the team and the Sanya-based Blue Ocean Protection Association will conduct onboard environmental-protection initiatives while spreading the philosophy of protecting the oceans everywhere throughout the race.