#VOR - With the clock ticking to the start of the 2017–18 Volvo Ocean Race as the race village opens in Alicante later today (Wednesday 11 October), it’s time to take a closer look at the significant Irish presence in the world’s most challenging yacht race, as recently noted by our own WM Nixon.
The biggest name beyond sailing circles is surely Annalise Murphy, the hero of Rio 2016 who is swapping her Laser Radial for an entirely different challenge with the crew of Turn the Tide on Plastic, skippered by women’s offshore sailing pioneer Dee Caffari.
The Dubliner and National Yacht Club stalwart caused some concern over the summer when a knee injury sustained in the Moth Worlds forced her to pull out of the World Championships in her primary class.
But that break from competition might have been just what Annalise needed to get herself back into fighting fitness — not to mention prepared for a round-the-globe voyage that’s a world apart from her Tokyo 2020 ambitions.
The other big name among the VOR 65 crews is Damian Foxall, who returns for his sixth Volvo Ocean Race — this time with Vestas 11th Hour Racing, the former Team Vestas Wind (whose senior project manager happens to be Madrid-based Irishman Thomas John McMaw).
What’s more, the Kerry offshore legend heads a strong contingent from The Kingdom in this latest VOR, with Brian Carlin leading the team of on-board reporters and marine biologist Lucy Hunt in charge of the race’s sustainability education programme.
Other Irish names of note behind the scenes include Bill O’Hara, a former Northern Irish Olympian and race officer in charge of the VOR’s 2012 climax in Galway who is part of the race committee for the 2017–18 race, and Johnny Donnelly, MD of VOR event contractor Arcana.
Two others previously unmentioned are Philip Johnston, a veteran cross-channel racer from Northern Ireland with a strong record in the Fastnet Race who brings his expertise on shore logistics to Turn the Tide on Plastic, and Cork sailor James O’Mahony, another Fastnet vet at the mainsheet and mast positions and well versed in what support his team will need as part of the shore crew for Team Vestas 11th Hour.
Afloat.ie will be keeping up with all of their exploits when the 13th edition of the Volvo Ocean Race gets under way on Sunday 22 October.