Knut Frostad had a big smile on his face in Copenhagen at the ’Vestas Wind’ press launch at the Royal Danish Yacht Club at Tuborg Harbour in northern Copenhagen. Frostad gives his views about the seventh boat, the late entry and the future of the race.
The Danish company Vestas, world leader in wind energy, secured the first ever Danish entry in Volvo Ocean Race and the seventh boat on the starting line in Alicante. 'Vestas Wind' is flying the Danish flag, the burgee of Royal Danish Yacht Club, where the whole crew are members, and the boat’s home port is Tuborg Harbour. When the race is over, the boat will be back in Tuborg Harbour for a large welcome party – maybe with Tuborg beer to the quests! It could not be more Danish!
‘What a match’ - the world leader in wind energy and the world's pre-eminent round-the-world yacht race and one of the most covered events in sailing and sport, the Volvo Ocean Race.
VOR reached their goal with seven boats on the starting line in Alicante, and CEO Knut Frostad had a big smile on his face in Copenhagen at the press conference Tuesday this week. Seven boats on the starting line with seven different sponsors are also remarkable.
‘Vestas Wind' became the latest entry ever for the event, and thereby also the VOR project with the shortest planning and preparation period ever. The One Design VO65 makes this possible, and both Knut Frostad and Chris Nicholson expressed at the press conference that the One Design concept will be the key to success in the future, for the teams, sponsors and event.
The very late announcement of the project does not leave very much time for preparation, Frostad admits. The launch is so late that ‘Team Vestas Wind’ have only six weeks from the boat hitting the water in Southhampton on August 21st until the race starts in Alicante on October 4th.
When asked if he was concerned not to get the seventh boat on the starting line, Knut Frostad said at the press conference:
‘We have all the time been quite certain that we would get the seventh boat ready, due to the strong interest the last six months. There was another team lined up for the boat, this opportunity with Vestas came very late, but we could not wish for a better sponsor for the seventh boat.’
The initial talks were between Vestas and Volvo Ocean race, and soon thereafter also Chris Nicholson became involved as skipper. Knut Frostad says:
‘This would not have been possible, if we had not chosen One Design boats. The only thing that is missing, is the final branding on sails and boat.’
‘I am very happy that Nicholson accepted the offer from Vestas as skipper for the boat. Chris worked for us in Volvo Ocean Race in order to help to finish the VO65 rules, so he already knows a lot about the boat and equipment. He did a fantastic job helping to finalize the One Design rules. He is the best person for such a short and intense campaign.’
‘Nico and Coxy (Neil Cox) are a very strong team, and they know nearly everything about the boat. So it will be easier for them with the extremely short preparation period, and they were probably the only team that could succeed with such a short period for finalizing the boat, day training, race qualifier, the 2000 miles as well as the last preparations in Alicante.’
‘Vestas has been very realistic about the project and accept that they probably will be underdogs when the race starts. But never underestimate an experienced skipper like Nicholson, when he and the crew gets more miles in the book.’
Knut Frostad never doubted that One Design would be the solution for future Volvo Ocean Races:
‘One Design will boost the race in the future. We have to go back to 2001 to see seven team sponsors in the Volvo Ocean Race.’ Since then there has been several times with two-boats campaigns such as Ericsson, ABN Amro and Telefonica, but after 2009 we did no lonhger allow for two-boat teams as it created a too big gap in the fleet and made it too difficult for lower budget entries to be competitive. Since 2008 we have been through a very difficult economical situation, and if we hadn’t gone to One Designs, we would probably have had fever boats.’
‘One boat more this time than last is very satisfactory, and it is with seven different sponsors.’
‘I am proud that Volvo Ocean Race has come back strong after the difficult economical years since 2008, and the total sponsorship and investments for the coming race will exceed more than 200 mio. Euro, including all the teams, stopover cities, event organisation, etc. This is a lot compared to other sports, and only Americas Cup is economically larger in sailing and that is primarily a privately funded event.’
‘The Volvo Ocean 65 will be used in the next two races, and thereafter we will review based on the experience so far. The process for any changesto boats or the way the teams operate is now very democratic. Everyone including the race organization must vote positively to any changes, and there must also be consensus with regard to the costs.’
An example is the spare sails for all, where it has been decided to share the transport costs for such sails and the teams agree to what ports the sails are shipped to, etc. The new infrastructure for the whole race including transport between the stopovers is also more cost effective than before.’
‘I expect that we with the Volvo Ocean 65 could grow the fleet for the 2017 race, with more level playing field which to a much higher extent reduces the risk and the investment for the sponsors.’
‘Volvo Ocean Race must reach new generations. Sailing has been a very conservative sport and has been slow in order to adapt to new challenges we gave. In my mind the top level in our sport has a responsibility to develop the sport in a way to anyone can both understand and also associate themselves with what the best are doing. If the gap between what kids and club sailors are doing and what the best do is too big, you loose that connection. Soccer has that great platform were the game is exactly the same and the ball is the same whether you are in the world cup or in a kid’s club tournament. Then kids realise that one day it can be them and that is inspiring. Using One Design boats supports this. And although foiling is exiting, this is not for common people in sailing and therefore not the solution for us at this stage. We first need to grow our audience significantly,’
‘In Denmark for example, the important thing for you is to tell a story about the adventure that Nicolai Sehested and Peter Wibroe is going to experience the next year. Tell the public how those guys follow their dream, set goals and achieve them in a way to any young person out there can identify themselves with Nicolai and Peter and at least dream that this could have been them.’
‘Talk about their challenges, experiences and emotions all the way through, not only the results, but how they experience everything as two young athletes in a big adventure.’’