“This is a big moment for The Ocean Race,” said managing director Johan Salén at this week’s official launch of the event previously known as the Volvo Ocean Race.
“We are excited to be moving forward with a new identity that reflects the best of our heritage – human ambition, technology, competition and teamwork – while adding in new elements, like our core focus on sustainability.”
Formerly known as the Whitbread Round the World Race (1973 to 1997) and the Volvo Ocean Race (2001 to 2018), The Ocean Race was taken over by new owners Atlant Ocean Racing Spain last year, but retains previous owner Volvo as a premier race partner.
The next edition of The Ocean Race will start in 2021 from Alicante, Spain with two classes of boats racing: the high-tech, foiling IMOCA 60s and the one-design Volvo Ocean 65 fleet that provided the closest race in the history of the event in the last edition.
“Opening up The Ocean Race to the IMOCA class isn’t just exciting for the sailors. It puts us back at the forefront of technology and gets the entire marine sector – from designers and engineers, to boatbuilders and sailmakers – involved in the race again,” said executive director Richard Mason.
“There are nine new IMOCA 60s in build across the world and we know several of them are being prepared as projects for our race. And on the other side, we already have six of the eight VO65s that are essentially spoken for by campaigns planning to be on the start line in 2021.”
Two Volvo Ocean 65 campaigns were announced on Thursday.
Paulo Mirpuri, chair of the Mirpuri Foundation and a founding partner of Turn the Tide on Plastic in the last race, announced he would have at least one team competing in The Ocean Race.
“Our intention is to build a campaign in the VO65 boat – the one-design class that produced such thrillingly close racing last time out – to take our sustainability message around the globe.”
Mirpuri added in a video link from Portugal that he was intrigued by the technology challenge posed by the IMOCA 60 and was considering a second entry in that class.
Bianca Cook, who raced on board Turn the Tide on Plastic in the 2017-18 event, announced she would be spearheading a New Zealand-flagged team.
And Tony Rae (Trae), a veteran of six editions of the race, twice as a winner, as well as seven America’s Cup teams, is on board to manage the campaign.
“After the race finished in The Hague, I was ready to go again and since then I’ve been working with Trae to put together a team for the next Ocean Race,” Cook said.
“We have a deep pool of New Zealand sailors to draw from as we put together the crew – I can’t mention any names just yet – but watch this space.”
Further team announcements are likely over the coming weeks and months, despite the start being two-and-a-half years away.
Xabi Fernández and Paul Meilhat are among those working to get teams together for the gruelling round-the-world ocean yachting challenge.
The 2021-22 edition of The Ocean Race will feature up to nine stopover ports, with the host city procurement process now under way.
“It’s an exciting time,” said Antoine Mermod, president of IMOCA. “For a few months we’ve been working together with The Ocean Race to organise the best event we can. What The Ocean Race is building is really something that will change the offshore sailing world in the future.”