Some commentators on the VOR Stopover in Nansha clearly have no real perception or understanding of the requirements of a commercial event such as the Volvo. Either that or they are so parochial that they are frightened their own little territory might one day be eclipsed and perhaps sooner rather than later.

Snide comments such as Nansha isn’t really Guangzhou shows an ignorance of Chinese geography while any writer that thinks that the Volvo Ocean Race could exist AT ALL without the sponsors clearly has no grasp of commercial sports sponsorship. Let alone the Volvo Ocean Race.

It is important to remember that, like it or otherwise, the person that pays the bills normally calls the shots.

It is correct that every team had the inducement of avoiding what would have been effectively a 1 point penalty by making the trip to Guangzhou. However it may have missed some writers notice that the sponsors of every team have either commercial interests in China  or an important message to deliver so they weren’t going to complain.

Anyway, with that off my chest, what about the stopover itself?

Well, it was crowded. Not sure what the overall footfall will turn out to be but the daily attendance knocked that of Hong Kong into a cocked hat. Perhaps better promotion, easier access (there was a metro stop only a few hundred metres from the marina) or greater interest in something different, the reason doesn’t matter, the turnout proved the value of having a stop in mainland China.

The in port race was scheduled for close to the top of the tide to give a large a race area as possible and standing on the committee boat and seeing no wake while she sat at anchor belies reports of a 3kt current during racing.

They say in the America’s Cup that ‘There is No Second’. Sadly in the Dongfeng Guangzhou In Port Race there was, just one, one more in the pre-start than either Dongfeng or Scallywag would have wished with both being called over early and being forced to return while the rest of the fleet headed off up wind. A spot on call by race officer Bill O’Hara as video accurately aligned with the start line would prove.

As they were at the pin end – pictured above, both elected to spin round the pin and restart and off went Scallywag up the first beat. Not so Dongfeng though! Their spin was a little too sharp and they tried to take the pin mark with them. The trouble with torpedo keels is they can be akin to a fishing hook and by the time the local lads separated themselves from their oversized fender Mapfre was unfurling at the top mark with the two Dutch boats close astern.

Over the 4 laps of the short course where speed of furling and unfurling was at a premium Mapfre maintained, and in fact extended, their lead, the two Dutch boats swapped their places in 2 & 3 a number of times while Scallywag showed good pace after their belated start to overhaul Turn the Tide on Plastic with Dongfeng bringing up the rear while Mapfre just walked away from everyone to finish comfortable winners.

While I am sure the local sponsors were disappointed with trailing the fleet they appear to have learned enough about our sport to realise ‘that’s yacht racing’ and unless you have the occasional OCS you really aren’t trying hard enough.

And so on to the Awards Party, and it indeed developed into quite a party.

Again sponsored by Dongfeng and held in a high tech (and thankfully well heated) marquee it had a relaxed atmosphere which evolved rather than degenerated into a good old fashioned Volvo Stopover party which was still going strong at 0200 this morning.

As to the ceremony itself, it started with a troupe of Chinese female drummers – they do seem to like making big noises here and then Richard Brisius took the stage to welcome all. Richard comes across as a bit wooden compared to his predecessors but that shouldn’t be taken as a criticism as this was only the second time he had addressed the whole Volvo Ocean Race ‘family’ and it does take time and practice to become used to talking to several hundred people at one time, many of whom would be wishing for some pithy statement or other as to where the race is going after this one finishes AND when that will be. This was followed by an interview with ‘local’ skipper Charles Caudrelier. It was almost surreal with the questions asked by Andy Green and Jessica in English & Chinese, answered by Charles in his French accented English and in disembodied Chinese (actually DFRT lynchpin Li Li standing just offstage).

These two on stage appearances (Richard & Charles) demonstrate that in the increasingly public world of professional sport it is no longer sufficient just to be good at the job, the ability to communicate to the wider public is a growing requirement..

Ably presented by Andy Green alongside local girl Jessica the event included awards for the Hong Kong In Port Race along with the 1st, 2nd and 3rd for the Guangzhou In Port and of course, being China, lots of ganbays (bottoms up) with the local brew bizho much in evidence. That is kind of like a mix of rocket fuel and something, not quite sure what that something is but it hits the spot. That of course warmed everyone up for the party that decamped itself to the hotel bar. (I have yet to find an accurate finish time and those there are the end probably weren’t able to focus on their watch in any case.) Fight hard on the water, good mates off it. The free flow beer and rum certainly didn’t hold back the sailors with one corner dancing away, other in deep conversation and a third group apparently concentrating on getting copious amount down their neck – breakfast the next morning was a very quiet affair ☺.

So to the final day of action off Nansha Marina which was the Pro-Am with a twist. A Mr & Mrs challenge between Kenny Fok and his wife, multiple Olympic Gold Medalist, Guo Jing Jing with a head to head on Dongfeng and Clean Seas with honours going to ‘Mr’. Some guests even had so much fun they didn’t want to let go of the wheel and almost had to be prised back into the support RIBs. It is amazing what can be done with a couple of iPhones and a Wechat account. A total of 17 channels being deployed with the largest one being watched by 1.2 Million people. That has to be something of a Volvo Ocean Race streaming record.

So to the final evening which was a locally organised Gala Charity Dinner in aid of the WWF (China) Plastic Pollution awareness campaign. A sumptuous affair which apparently had the holders of no less than 20 Olympic Gold Medals in attendance where the Charity Auction alone raised in excess of ¼ Million RMB. The world is (thankfully) waking up.

And so there it is, Mapfre will certainly be happy with a (now) 5 point gap in the In Port Series, Dongfeng got their home stopover, they are happy, Mr Bekking enjoyed the food, David Witt appeared to be enjoying himself. TTOP had a small pavilion there and China is a huge market for Akzonobel so I am not entirely sure which two teams would have told certain writers they were not happy with the trip to China. On top of that, several 10’s of thousands of  people attended the stopover, the crews experienced a little piece of China, the sponsors had the opportunity to be visible in one of their markets, no one was penalised for not attending unless unavoidably detained, and yet the Volvo Ocean Race, a full on commercial sporting event has, according to some, lost some credibility by going to Mainland China. Really?

There is a basic rule in sports marketing – “Follow the Money”. Any event has to evolve or die.

Shanghai Sailor