Volvo Ocean Race 2011-2012: That’s a Wrap

Amory Ross / PUMA Ocean Racing / Volvo Ocean Race

Our apologies for the lack of Volvo Ocean Race coverage on the Racing Winds Blog in recent days. A trip to rural Spain was on the cards, and there was no way of blogging from the mountains. But we’re back now, dissecting the Volvo Ocean Race piece by piece.

As we’re sure you already know by now, the Volvo Ocean Race’s 2011-2012 edition has come to an end, with French team Groupama taking the honors after performing consistently and gracefully nearly the entire race.

Our mind is wandering, though, and imagining the alternate scenarios. What if PUMA hadn’t been dismasted on the first leg? Instead of taking a DNF on that leg, they could have banked some serious points, points that would have certainly had an impact.

What if Team Sanya had a faster, more modern boat? It’s entirely possible that they would have been more engaged in the race, providing some intense competition. How would the scoreboard have been impacted then?

There are a handful more thoughts that come to mind. Unfortunately, these questions will remain unanswered forever. Further, with the Volvo Ocean Race switching to a one-design fleet for future editions of the event.

The switch to one-design

A one-design Volvo Ocean Race has the potential to go two ways; it will either become an even more exciting, less restrictive version of the event it is now, or it could become watered-down and, at times, bland, like the America’s Cup.

Full details of the switch can be found here, but, in a nutshell, the Volvo Ocean Race has worked with Farr Yacht Design to create a one-design class, aimed at lowering the costs of a Volvo Ocean Race campaign, as well as providing more flexibility with regards to weight and efficiency.

While, in theory, a change to one-design is meant to be a positive thing, reactions from the sailing community have been mixed. Perhaps the most notable retort was that of legendary yacht designer Juan Kouyoumdjian, designer of Volvo Ocean Race winning boat Groupama, as well as Telefonica’s and PUMA’s Volvo Open 70s. Juan K minced no words when giving an interview to (part 1 and part 2), officially foreseeing doom in the new one-design Volvo Ocean Race, on the record.

Hamish Hooper / CAMPER ETNZ / Volvo Ocean Race

Juan K is clearly upset, and it’s hard to fault him for that. His office has a reputation for building excellent boats, and the Volvo Ocean Race has obviously consumed a considerable amount of both his work life and his personal life, and now, Juan K, as well as other yacht designers, is effectively being completely cut out of the Volvo Ocean Race. It doesn’t help that Farr designed Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing’s Azzam, referred to by some as the “slowest boat in the Volvo Ocean Race.”

I guess only time will tell.

The stopover saga

The Volvo Ocean Race threw some great parties this year. Arguably one of the most successful stopover was the Galway finale (maybe it’s all the Guinness!). The Race also had a successful return to Auckland, and a successful entry into the Chinese and Middle Eastern sailing markets. The elephant in the room, however, was the noticeably quiet Miami stopover. It got everyone thinking.

As far as the United States East Coast is concerned, there are only a handful of cities that could possibly host a stopover. In my head, the cities are this: Charleston, SC; Washington, DC; New York, NY; Annapolis, MD; Boston, MA; and Newport, RI. If we went a step further and narrowed it down to cities that seem to have an inherent sailing culture, we would be left with four.

  • Newport, RI because people live to sail there. It doesn’t really even require an explanation.
  • Boston, MA because the Volvo Ocean Race hosted a very successful stopover there in the 2008-2009 edition.
  • Annapolis, MD because this “Sailing Capital of the World” lives and breathes sailing, just like Newport.
  • Charleston, SC because this up-and-coming sailing city is the right mix of flash and fun.

Of course, these are just from a layman’s viewpoint, and I really don’t have any stats to back them up (except for Boston, where 20,000 people showed up to greet the boats from Rio de Janeiro, and over 100,000 people passed through on the big weekends).

Where will the Volvo Ocean Race visit next? We already know that the start and finish of the next edition will be Alicante, Spain, and Galway, Ireland, respectively, but the points in between are still a mystery.

We’ve really enjoyed following along on this adventure with all of our readers, and we thank you for your support. We’ll have more coverage and news in the coming few days!