With the start of the Volvo Ocean Race 2017-18 just seven months away, there has been a recent marked increase in team and crew selection announcements emanating from the race’s headquarters in Alicante, Spain.
Up to eight teams are expected to take part in the 86,000 Kilometre around the world race which starts from Alicante on October 22. So far four entries have been confirmed.
Early Dutch entrant, team AkzoNobel, has been joined by the Chinese-flagged, Dongfeng Race Team, and Spanish entry, MAPFRE. Somewhat mysteriously, a fourth entry has been confirmed, with the identity of the sponsor and skipper due to be revealed at the end of March.
People might reasonably expect to have more teams confirmed at this stage, but with a ready-made fleet of seven one-design boats from the last edition to choose from there is less time pressure on teams to launch their campaigns.
First time campaigners team AkzoNobel have opted to have a new boat built for the race. According to the team’s skipper – Netherlands sailor, Simeon Tienpont – going for a new boat was the obvious choice.
“Our goal is to be the best prepared team on the start line in Alicante,” he said. “So, our first choice was always to have a new boat built. If you have that option, it’s a no-brainer decision to make when you are racing around the world.”
To maintain the integrity of the race’s strict one-design rule, Volvo Ocean Race staff have closely overseen the construction of the eighth Volvo Ocean 65 yacht at the Persico Marine facility in Italy. Furthermore, each of the existing boats has undergone a one million Euro overhaul at the race’s Boatyard facility in Lisbon to bring them up to par.
The AkzoNobel team is yet to reveal its crew line-up but rivals Dongfeng and MAPFRE have both announced some big-name signings.
Charles Caudrelier makes a return as skipper of Dongfeng Race Team. The Frenchman finished third in the last race and but for a broken mast in the Southern Ocean could well have been a contender for the overall top spot.
Having sailed the last race with a largely French core crew, his first signings have been Kiwi duo Darryl Wislang – winner of the last race with Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing – and Southern Ocean expert, Stu Bannatyne. Caudrelier has also managed to persuade third-placed Vendée Globe skipper, Jérémie Beyou to try his hand at fully-crewed round the world racing.
MAPFRE skipper Xabi Fernández chose two fellow countrymen as his first picks for the Spanish crew. Pablo Arrate is a three-time Volvo Ocean Race veteran who raced with Team Brunel last time. Bowman Antonio Cuervas-Mons (aka Ñeti) is well known to Fernández – having raced alongside him in the last three editions. British ocean racing expert Rob Greenhalgh also re-joins the MAPFRE crew as watch captain.
Given that the first compulsory pre-race commitment for competing teams is the Rolex Fastnet Race on August 6, we should expect to see a flurry of new crews to emerge over the coming months.