Vendee Globe Veteran and Portimao Global Ocean Race director, Josh Hall, puts a compelling case for the benefits of low budget ocean racing. March 18th,19th and 20th 2009 have become historic dates in the history of Round The World Yacht Racing and true milestones for The Portimão Global Ocean Race. At the same time as the fleet of 70ft Volvo Ocean Race yachts rounded Cape Horn, so did the Portimão Global Ocean Race fleet of 40-footers. Both fleets manned by passionate, talented sailors and both fleets followed by a massive internet audience that held their breath as the boats carried their crews around the world’s most notorious cape and swiftly from the inherent dangers of the Southern Ocean back into the relative safety of the South Atlantic.
The latest crop of Cape Horner’s across the two fleets have many shared goals and aspirations, but the way they are achieving them are, shall we say, oceans apart. Every Race has its place and at the totally professional end of the scale, I am a big fan of the Volvo Ocean Race, its boats and crews, but it is worth looking at some disparities between these two events that became apparent at Cape Horn.
Firstly, to compete to win in The Volvo Ocean Race demands sponsorship levels of €30 million per boat; the average net cost of campaigning in The Portimão Race is €200,000. Secondly, a pre-requisite to crew aboard a Volvo boat is that you are one of the top 50 offshore sailors in the world with a wealth of experience; sailors in the Portimão Race range from young, up-and-coming professionals, through to one skipper who until three years ago, had never sailed in his life. The sheer level of sponsorship required to compete in the Volvo Race is only viable for companies and countries that have a mature, pre-existing relationship with the sport; the affordability of The Portimao Race has attracted entries from countries, sponsors and individuals who would otherwise be unable to contemplate an around the world race. Read on.