lost at sea

I have been reading about this latest “crisis” to befall the Volvo Ocean Race, formerly known as the Whitbread Round the World Race, and can only smile. Yup the VOR has finally grown up; the suits are “officially” in charge.
OK for those that have not been following a couple of things. The Volvo Ocean Race bills itself, and rightly so, as the preeminent fully crewed offshore ocean race and the 13th edition is about to set sail from Alicante, Spain this weekend. With just over a week to go to the start of the race one of the teams, Team AkzoNobel, decided that it was a swell idea to can it’s skipper. Can, as in fire him, or to put it in PR-speak, he was ‘invited to stay on but declined.’
The (former) skipper is the Dutch sailor Simeon Tienpont who has participated in two previous VOR races and has also been part of a winning America’s Cup team. Clearly the guy is qualified and he put together a formidable crew that includes Brad Jackson, an old mate of mine who is a Watch Captain, and Jules Salter a three-time veteran of the race. Did I mention that the next Volvo Ocean Race starts this weekend?
Before I get too deep in the weeds here I must note that I really don’t have a clue what actually happened. (we do, click here. – ed).  Both sides have (presumably) lawyered-up and the statements coming from both sides are as vague as a hookers perfume after a long night…:)  I have, however, been in this game for a long time and I can smell a suit from a mile away.
Tienpont, cleverly, wrote a lucrative deal with his sponsor before becoming engaged with them. AkzoNobel is, according to their website, “a leading global paints and coatings company and a major producer of specialty chemicals.” Fair enough and I can see why they would probably like to align themselves with a global brand like the Volvo Ocean Race especially since the idea of the VOR is all about being clean; as in the wind is free and the water is pure, and they make chemicals which I am guessing are not so clean or pure. But I digress. It seems that AkzoNobel has been less than impressed with the performance of their skipper and his management team, Steam Ocean B.V. There was, apparently, a cost overrun on some things and AkzoNobel used this as an excuse to terminate their contract with Steam Ocean B.V.  In other words the “suits” got involved.
Let me digress one more time. The very best thing that happened to the VOR was the appointment of Mark Turner as CEO. There are few people more qualified to run this race but less than a year into his term Mark is out. Resigned I believe (or was he pushed…:)?  Mark had many interesting and innovative ideas of how to bring this iconic event into the 21 century but it seems he might have fallen afoul of the bean counters. And he is out.
Late this afternoon there was a report that the aforementioned Brad Jackson has been appointed as skipper of AkzoNobel. Good for him and I am sure he will deliver but I have to wonder where you draw the line. Loyalty to your mate and the guy who hired you, or loyalty to the pay check that will come as skipper. That goes for the rest of the crew. They too could have resigned in protest and I read that there were plenty of rumblings on that note, but a job is a job and a paycheck is a paycheck so I don’t blame them. But I do blame the suits for their heavy handedness. One thing that sets a winning team apart from the rest is crew morale. I am sure that crew morale is at a low ebb on the good ship AkzoNobel.
So back to where I started. The Volvo Ocean Race has finally grown up and come of age. It’s now about money, bean counters, egos and suits. Surely this is a sign of a well developed event?
Don’t you agree?
Brian Hancock