SKIP NO­VAK

AS THE VOLVO OCEAN RACE RE­TURNS TO ITS ROOTS, SKIP IS GLAD TO SEE THE SOUTH­ERN OCEAN LEG RE­TURNED TO ITS PROPER PLACE

Yachting World - - Comment -

Iwas very pleased to see the new course for the next Volvo Ocean Race. Look­ing at the map graphic, the course line is once again more or less a log­i­cal cir­cum­nav­i­ga­tion. In pre­vi­ous edi­tions the line that de­fined the course was a pretty un­sea­man­like piece of rope, thrown hap­haz­ardly across the deck of the world.

It has now been re­run and straight­ened out, with only a sin­gle bight north to Hong Kong on the ‘far side of the world’. This should ap­pease the diehard tra­di­tion­al­ists of the Whit­bread era.

Hav­ing said that, they might gulp in their beer when they learn the new course is a stag­ger­ing 45,000 nau­ti­cal miles. The Whit­bread races were a mere 27,000.

The clas­sic stops are all ac­counted for: Cape Town, ‘Tav­ern of Seas’, is al­ways a given. Frankly there is no prac­ti­cal al­ter­na­tive. Known to the Dutch East In­dia Com­pany as a ‘re­fresh­ment stop’, that de­scrip­tion is as true to­day as it was then when its ships took on wood, wa­ter and pro­vi­sions.

I for one will never for­get Ta­ble Moun­tain loom­ing above a clear hori­zon when 50 miles out on Leg 1 in the 1977-78 Whit­bread race.

Auck­land is in and would be a tragedy to ig­nore given the Ki­wis’ en­thu­si­asm and sup­port for the event dur­ing all these years. I love the place so much I be­came a New Zealand res­i­dent af­ter the 1989 race on Fazisi – but then lost it when I fo­cused on my char­ter busi­ness in Tierra del Fuego.

Fun in the sun

And of course Brazil (if not Rio this time), to re­cover from the cold and have some fun in the sun, is a must. We were broke in Rio in 1977 on King’s Leg­end, but no mat­ter with the car­ni­val in full swing. And now there is the manda­tory stop in Amer­ica at New­port be­fore the fi­nale. Af­ter that the rope’s end gets messy, tan­gled up in Euro­pean ports to sat­isfy var­i­ous com­mer­cial in­ter­ests that ev­i­dently can­not be ig­nored.

Yes, the ports still have lever­age. Such was the paucity of en­tries on all pre­vi­ous re­cent edi­tions that any sem­blance to a ‘round the world race’ had gone by the board. It was more of a re­gatta that hap­pened to take in the en­tire planet.

Abu Dhabi’s de­ci­sion not to take part in the com­ing edi­tion, and there be­ing no other tak­ers from the Mid­dle East, cer­tainly made the im­pe­tus to sim­plify the course that much eas­ier.

Sav­ing the show

More con­ti­nu­ity is cer­tainly ev­i­dent, largely ow­ing to the legacy CEO Knut Frostad left be­hind. He can be cred­ited with sav­ing the show. The de­ci­sion at last to go for a one-de­sign was clear think­ing and rep­re­sented a wa­ter­shed. Re­cy­cling the for­mer fleet into the next event was the guar­an­tee. If any­one can build on this sit­u­a­tion it is the new CEO Mark Turner, the Sven­gali of ocean rac­ing man­age­ment – and he is off to a great start.

What is ex­cit­ing for ev­ery­one, though, is the re­turn to some se­ri­ous South­ern Ocean sail­ing. This is what al­ways at­tracted those of us dur­ing the Whit­bread era. We looked for­ward to div­ing south and en­dur­ing the thrills and spills. And equally we were very glad when it was all over and we turned that cor­ner at Cape Horn into the rel­a­tive calm of the South At­lantic. Note that we never had lim­its on how far south we could go. This will be in­ter­est­ing to ad­dress given event man­age­ment para­noia about route­ing the course through ice zones.

And while off­shore our races were pri­vate af­fairs. It would be fun to imag­ine if we had been wired up with cam­eras live to race con­trol, the me­dia and the pub­lic, how it would have been re­ceived.

Well, I can’t re­ally. Much of it would have been cen­sored for one rea­son or an­other, with so many beeps for strong and in­ap­pro­pri­ate lan­guage that the nar­ra­tive would have been mean­ing­less.

I’m sure there will be a few beeps here and there on the in­ter­net feeds for 2017 if the South­ern Ocean lives up to its rep­u­ta­tion – well at least I hope so.

“RATHER THAN A ROUND THE WORLD RACE, IT WAS MORE OF A RE­GATTA THAT HAP­PENED TO TAKE IN THE EN­TIRE PLANET”

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