Longer, shorter and more Southern Ocean

Route for the 2017-8 Volvo Ocean Race is announced

Wednesday June 29th 2016, Author: James Boyd, Location: Spain

Featuring almost three times as much Southern Ocean sailing as the previous edition, the 2017-18 Volvo Ocean Race will be contested over the longest distance in the history of the race at around 45,000 miles and will take in 11 cities on five continents.

The 43-year-old fully crewed race around the world will start from Alicante in late 2017, for the first time with a sprint leg, 700 miles to Lisbon, Portugal, providing the first furious test for the crews. From the Portuguese capital, the fleet will plunge south on the more familiar passage down the Atlantic to Cape Town, South Africa.

Leg 3 is the new 'big one', before an epic few weeks racing through the Southern Ocean before heading through Bass Strait and up the east coast of Australia, across the equator and on to Hong Kong, in what will be one of the longest legs in the Volvo Ocean Race's history.

After a non-scoring transition to nearly Guangzhou in China, here there will be an in-port race and full-on stopover before the racing resumes with leg 5, from Hong Kong to Auckland, New Zealand.

For leg 6, the fleet will head back through the Southern Ocean, around Cape Horn, and up the South Atlantic, returning to Itajaí in southern Brazil.

From there, as in the last edition, the boats will head back in to the northern hemisphere to the east coast of the USA, and Newport, Rhode Island. Not the longest, but one of the toughest legs will be the blast across the North Atlantic bound for Cardiff, the first time the Volvo Ocean Race has returned to British shores in 12 years.

The VO65s will arrive in Cardiff in May 2018, and from there will make their way around the top of the British Isles on a short but potentially brutal leg to the penultimate stopover in the heartland of Volvo itself - Gothenburg, Sweden. Finally the 2017-18 race will conclude in The Hague, Netherlands.

At around 45,000 miles, the total distance of the race is longer than in any of the 12 previous editions. But while the teams will sail more miles than ever before, the race itself is scheduled to be one month shorter than the last one.

As Mark Turner, who took over as CEO of the Volvo Ocean Race three weeks ago summarised: .More action, more speed, more tough miles and more host venues, but a shorter race – it’s an evolution in the right direction and a move that takes the Race closer to its original roots and heritage, while improving its strong commercial value and excellent business case for sponsors.” 

Around 12,500 nm of the race will take place in the Southern Ocean, compared to the previous edition, when the teams spent around 4,500 miles racing there.

Turner continued: “In 2017-18 we’ll be visiting some of the world’s most famous sailing cities – places like Cape Town, Auckland and Newport, Rhode Island – while also taking the Race to fresh audiences in new cities.

“Firstly to Hong Kong, an incredible city, which will act as a hub for south-east Asian fans and VIP guests. Then on to Guangzhou, China -  the first time the race will visit one of just four, premium Tier 1 cities in the country.

“And finally to Cardiff, taking the Race back to the UK for the first time since 2005-06. The United Kingdom is the birthplace of The Whitbread Round the World Race, which had its first start from Portsmouth in 1973 and later became the Volvo Ocean Race in 1998.”

Looking forward, Turner added: “It’s also great to be preparing for a fourth consecutive start from our home port of Alicante, and heading back to familiar cities where we’re building a legacy for the Race – to Lisbon, Itajaí, Gothenburg and The Hague.”

Richard Mason, Operations Director for the race, commented: “In the last edition we welcomed over 2.4 million visitors and over 70,000 corporate guests to our host city venues. We’re determined to offer even more exciting sailing in 2017-18, while making the race village experience even better for our fans, guests and partners.”

Mason, himself a five-time Volvo Ocean Race sailor, admitted: “I’m pretty tempted to return to the sailing now I’ve seen this amazing new route, but my new CEO has banned me!”

Phil Lawrence, incoming Race Director added: “Of course, safety remains paramount. With state-of-the-art tracking systems and satellite communication, alongside access to in-depth route information, we can stay one step ahead of the conditions and limit the exposure of the sailors.

“But ultimately, there will always be danger. Sailors know they put their lives on the line when they take on ‘the Everest’ of professional sailing. That’s what the Volvo Ocean Race is all about – taking the toughest conditions that Mother Nature can throw at you, and overcoming them.”

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