The closest race in history? Most certainly!
Most followed? Well I haven’t seen the metrics but would be surprised if any previous editions came close. Of course modern communications and media helped with a reported 2m people tuning in to watch the finish in Den Haag
A number of factors I believe made this race so successful.
Firstly the One Design, whether you rate the Volvo 65 or not they are all almost painfully the same. There were few performance differences discovered by the teams, notably the keel angle’s influence on speed which was shared with the fleet by the race experts along with Brunel’s apparent ‘run deep’ sail configuration in the southern ocean, when to swap out the ‘old’ sails for new ones as allowed in the race rules but beyond that the boats were as identical as they could possibly be.
At the front of the fleet 3 incredibly competitive teams with Brunel, Dongfeng and Mapfre virtually toe to toe by the end of the race as proven by the (effectively) 3 way tie as the boats left Gothenburg.
There should be no real surprises there. They were, after all, the pre-race favourites, all of which had lapped the planet before and importantly done so in these boats.
As we all know any one from three could have won and that’s not a rocket science statement.
Bowwe, Capey and the guys on Brunel and Xabi ( a great skipper who proves willingness to do any task on the boat), Rob G calling shots so often and their team and Charles and Pascal on Dongfeng truly proved to be (almost) each other’s equal.
Much has been written or said about teams that could have, would have or should have won but in the same way that the team posting a 4-3 score – even if on penalties as happened frequently in the recent Soccer World Cup – there could only be one winner.
Either way, with most points and the shortest elapsed time around the globe it would be hard to argue that Dongfeng Race Team earned their name on the trophy.
Or maybe two winners?
I say that because – and here I am blue skying – this race must be one of the most viewed individual sporting events outside the likes of the Olympics or the aforementioned football thingy in the history of sport with huge numbers tuning in (I am told 2m watched the finish on livestream). It will be a hard cliff hanger to replicate.
And were there any real losers?
Akzonobel had unfortunate issues closely before the start but they resulted in the vastly experienced Chris Nicholson joining the team, their race efforts more damaged by the mast track in Leg 7 than the politics before the get go. That they set a new record for the Volvo Ocean Race or indeed any boat under 100 feet is testament to their speed potential and while it could be argued the conditions had to be perfect, they had the current in their favour yada yada yada, they still produced the goods.
Vestas also had speed potential but after the collision in Chinese waters, missing out on 3 legs (Melbourne – Hong Kong – Guangzhou – Auckland) and being denied redress followed by their dismasting on Leg 7 really put paid to any chance of reaching the podium but such was the grit of this team that they were always there or thereabouts.
Turn the Tide with, what were rookie ocean sailors at the start of the race, certainly did not let themselves down and a remarkable performance by Dee Caffari’s team, in terms of closeness to the more experienced boats ahead of them which was not truly reflected in the raw points scoreboard.
Finally Sun Hung Kai Scallywag. Easy to discount them as the wooden spoon winners but it shouldn’t be forgotten that, remarkably considering they were basically a bunch of friends sailing together rather than hand-picked from around the world, they were lying well up on the scoreboard before the loss of John Fisher. After that they, quite understandably, fell off the pace.
I for one still feel a wave of sadness and sympathy whenever I think of that incident.
Unless one has personal experience of losing a close friend (or even someone you just know) at sea one can have no real idea of the impact on someone’s mind set such an event can have. I can assure you it does tend to bring you up short.
The reaction and the assistance of the rest of the teams when the Hong Kong boat when it eventually reached Itajai is testament to the closeness of the Volvo Ocean Racer family, of the feelings that ran right through the fleet and the spirit in which this race was sailed.
As we all know it was the closest race in the event’s 45 year history whether one looks at the scoreboard and will be a hard act to follow
Anyone else suffering from post race blues?
The closest race in history? Most certainly!