Volvo Ocean Race 2014-15 CEO Knut Frostad talks (Part I)
by Rob Kothe and the Sail-World team on 19 Aug 2014
The CEO of the Volvo Ocean Race is Knut Frostad, the 47 year old Norwegian sailor who sailed at two Olympic Games (1988 and 1992) and in four Volvo Ocean races.
2014 Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland Race - Abu Dhabi Rick Tomlinson / RORC http://www.rorc.org
His first VOR was in 1993-94 aboard Sweden’s Intrum Justitia which finished second. In the 1997-98 race he was the project founder and skipper for the Norwegian Innovation Kværner and in the 2001-02 VOR in the Norwegian Djuice. In the 2005-06 VOR he was watch captain on southern ocean legs for the Brazilian Brasil 1.
He became the Volvo Ocean Race Chief executive, in early 2008, ahead of the 2008-2009 race, taking over from Glen Bourke. In the tough economic environment, it’s obviously not been easily assembling the VOR fleet for the 2014-2015 race.
Sail-World interviewed Frostad late last week, after the dust had settled and we started by taking about that.
Frostad said 'The last two or three years have been extremely tough. The good news is that it is looking better now, even for the next race it is looking very good at the moment.
‘To get to where we are now and the risk we had to take and get all these pieces in place at the right time, it’s been a huge challenge.
‘We were of course disappointed with Emirates Team New Zealand not entering this year’s race, but that story is a little bit bigger in reality.
‘It’s a bit strange that a team announces that they are not doing the race. We had about 165 projects trying to do the next Volvo Ocean Race and thank God not all of them announce that they are not doing it.
‘We never announce them or any project before we know it is happening and the reality was that Team New Zealand was working on it but they were not able to get the funding together and then they worked on the joint venture with the Spanish and they didn’t manage to marry properly and that was their problem.
‘It is a pity for them but now most of their team is going to race for Vestas instead which the only big difference is the brand of Team New Zealand is not in the race but Nico was going to skipper that boat and a lot of the same core guys will be seen on the Vestas team.
‘The truth on that last boat (boat 7) without going too much in detail is ,that there was an international team and a sponsor that had actually booked the boat and started the whole process and that didn’t, for some reason, didn’t materialise.
‘We never went out with it because we need to be 100% confident before the final signatures were on and suddenly that stopped. There was nothing Russian that was just a rumour.
‘Of course I would have been very happy having Team New Zealand in the race but I wouldn’t have to liked not to have Vestas when that was an option because they are long term and they are strategic and it is a very good brand and it is a good story to have a wind and energy company in a sailing race and that means a lot.
‘Denmark is also a nation that we haven’t really well represented in the event and it is a sailing nation.
Vestas said themselves they couldn’t have found a better skipper and an Australian. Denmark having connections there. For them it is perfect.
‘We announced during the last race that we were going one design for this race.
‘Of course the boat is the visible change. The invisible changes are changes that really changed the budgets and the two biggest parts of that is everything that relates to a team, anything from logistics to how you service a boat, to spare parts, to insurance of the boats.
‘All these different pieces have changed completely with our new concept and the boat is an initiate for a lot of those things and a lot of those things are possible because of the identical boats but the biggest change to the race in general is the fact that the teams are sharing and they are sharing a lot of things.
‘They are not only sharing spare parts but they are sharing service personnel, shore crew, they are sharing medical doctors, they are sharing a lot of elements and every time we manage to get the teams to fully buy into that and share we make huge savings on their behalf.
‘ The best thing is that you save a lot of time and obviously with a one off boat it would not have been possible for a late entry like we have now have with Vestas.
'Now it is not only possible but it is almost coming to a table that is ready made. They get the boat in the water, the shore crew is waiting for them. Their doctor is hired months ago. A lot of the pieces are in place.
'The only thing they have to worry about is to get their clothes, get the food, get the team together and start sailing.
'Even insurance for the boat has all been sorted. They have to pay it but such a simple thing as sourcing insurance took months for the teams before and now there is a global package for the whole fleet. It has reduced costs from the time before and the deal is done by us on behalf of the teams. It just simplifies life.
‘One thing is the time it takes but it is also the people. They probably have one shore crew working for two or three months just to sign insurance in the past.
‘Going One Design has increased the reliability of the boat. There are several hundred kilos more carbon in this 65 foot boat compared to what we had in the 70 footer. There is a lot more structure in it.
‘It is a lot more higher margins on pretty much everywhere and the challenge we will have is that the sailors will now push the boats harder because the Volvo Open 70s they never pushed to the limit because if they did they broke them so the boat was always the deciding factor for how they sailed the boat and the boat was kind of running around with the sailors on them and now it is more the sailors are in control and they can really push this boat to the limit.
‘We are just watching them now (in the Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland Race) and we have all the data coming in from the boats because we are testing our systems around Britain and we are seeing how hard they push the boats. It is absolutely maximum the whole time. Which is good and great for the racing. On the Volvo 70 you would have to put the brake on in some of those conditions.
‘Last time some teams wouldn’t even show their cards so they wouldn’t even meet other teams and now because it is all standardise they have nothing to hide and we have access to all the systems and that helps us.
‘It also helps the guys who work in the boat yard shared services, looking after the boats and all the systems, because they can see how far the boats have been pushed, if there are problems, where and how and why.
‘Now if we have one problem on one boat we want to fix all the boats and all the boats have an interest now in one boat sharing their problem with another because they don’t want to be the one left out in the dark obviously.
‘In the last race it was completely different. There was no sharing of anything in the past, nothing.
‘Some teams, I think didn’t share their technical problems with their designers because the designer was working with more than one team and they didn’t want any other team to get the benefit so that is a new world and I think it is a healthy world.
‘I think it is a good world for sailing.'
In Part 2, Frostad reveals the very significant extent of budget savings, the Boatyard and more.
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