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No guarantee race will call again

2nd June 2009

Several world records have already been set and broken during the first week of the Volvo Ocean Race stopover in Galway -  but there is no guarantee that the round world yacht race will return to the west of Ireland reports Lorna Siggins of the Irish Times. A leaner, meaner event in future with lower costs, fewer ports of call, a cap on competitor spending and greater emphasis on renewable energy was outlined by Volvo Ocean Race (VOR) chief executive Knut Frostad at the weekend.

Galway and Belfast are among 81 ports bidding for stopover status in the next Volvo race in three years’ time, and Mr Frostad said he “could not say” which if any of the bids would be successful.

Bidding ports have to support an entry, but this “does not necessarily” have to be a home team, he indicated. “Green Dragon is an example, with shared Irish-Chinese participation”, he noted.

The VOR organisers want larger fleets, less costly entries, slightly smaller crews, and they want to encourage female and junior participation  – it being 20 years since Irish sailor Angela Farrell competed on the Tracy Edwards-skippered entry, Maiden.

“The tendency in sailing for larger and bigger boats is not sustainable,”he said.”We need to cap what we can spend, and the sport of sailing should have done this long ago.”

New plans for the race outlined by Frostad and Ken McAlpine of the VOR management team in Galway on May 31st include a cut in stopover ports to about eight or nine, and a cut in  crew size from 11 to 10 – with female crews allowed up to 12, including two male sailors. These numbers will include a non-sailing media crew person, due to the success of this initiative in the 2008-9 race, he said

The same number of crew will race in-port and offshore  - currently, two extra crew can be taken on for the inshore races, which contribute to 20 per cent of points – and there will also be a 40 per cent reduction in numbers of sails on board during circumnavigation.

Renewable energy sources will be incorporated, and Frostad said that VOR was also “looking at ways to make sure that new teams don’t feel disadvantaged by using an old boat”, including perhaps allowing some design concessions to teams entering in secondhand vessels. The success of Delta Lloyd in the current contest showed that secondhand vessels could still be viable, he said.

The total number of spectators for the 2008-2009 event has surpassed previous totals to date – with several legs still to go - and Galway has “played a big part in this”, Mr Frostad said. The fleet leaves Galway next Saturday (june 6) for Sweden.

 

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