all about the money
The Speed Dream team shares their perspective on the VOR and how they think it can be made better…
Last week the Volvo Ocean Race fleet rolled into Miami, six legs into a nine leg global circumnavigation that has seen its fair share of excitement, disappointment and disillusionment. Yes, there are plenty more adjectives to describe the litany of emotions felt by race fans and sailors alike, but among the many people I have talked to about this current running of the world’s greatest sailboat race, the word disillusionment seems to come up most often. The VOR has lost its magic and as a former veteran I am sad and frustrated by this current race. It is, sorry to say, a bit boring with boats breaking up and an already tiny fleet decimated by hull and rig damage. It is time, I think, to think differently.
The problem is age old, it’s about money, not just about how much it costs to field a winning entry, but more about the certainty of a sponsors return on investment. And the problem is not isolated to the Volvo Ocean Race. Across the pond in Europe IMOCA, the governing body of the Open 60 class, is facing a similar problem. There is internal strife among key sailors with some pushing for One Design to reign in costs while others adamant that it will do nothing of the sort. One thing is clear; costs need to be reigned in hard and boats need to be more seaworthy, a lot more seaworthy. Until then good luck getting a sponsor to chuck in a few mil for a campaign. Let me remind anyone who has forgotten that only 50% of the current VOR fleet made it to Cape Town under their own steam and that was considered a milk-run leg. Let’s also not forget that brutal first night of the last Vendée Globe when eight boats were forced to turn back battered and broken. Nope, if I was a sponsor I would look at this game with a jaundiced eye. Roller derby seems like a safer bet.
This short article is not in any way an attempt to point fingers. I think that the sailors and race management of the VOR have done a great job given that the economy is down and finding funding has been extraordinarily hard. That said there is a definite need for some original thinking for the next race and in my own effort to understand some of the problems and potential solutions I turned to Vlad Murnikov, an old friend and self-described ‘free-thinker.’ Vlad was the designer and driving force behind Fazisi, the Soviet Unions first, and by happenstance, only Whitbread entry. That boat was, if nothing else, original and innovative. In the spirit of full disclosure Vlad and I are partners in a project called SpeedDream and I raced part of the 89 Whitbread aboard Fazisi, but none of that should take away from what I think are some insightful and interesting observations about the current state of rules and offshore racing. Read on.