Six teams representing the best in the sport of sailing, will line up for the start of the Volvo Ocean Race on 5 November in Alicante, Spain.
While the fleet is the smallest to contest the round the world classic, it is of the highest quality, and represents each of the major regions of the planet. In this race, Olympic and World Champions will be pitched against the Round the World record holders, and the most successful professional sailing team in the world, who have twice won the America's Cup. Keeping them honest is the winning skipper from the 2005/06 Volvo Ocean Race and the runner up from the 2008/09 event.
Having been a co-skipper of the Telefónica Blue crew in the last race, this is Martínez’s first time fully in charge.
One of the most successful Spanish sailors ever, Martínez has won multiple world and European titles, Olympic gold and silver medals in the 49er dinghy and also has experience of two previous Volvo Ocean Races and a Barcelona World Race campaign to his name.
His crew line-up includes several of his Telefónica Blue crewmates including his Olympic partner Xabi Fernández, as well as round the world race veterans Andrew Cape and Neal McDonald.
Martínez says his decision to lead Telefónica rather than secure a virtually guaranteed spot in next year’s Olympics was made easier because of the strongly Spanish make up of the Telefónica campaign.
'To lead a national team like this is a huge honour and something which was hard to turn down. I feel very proud to be in charge of such a strong team with such a Spanish profile.'
Team Telefónica have the longest pedigree of any of the current teams and have looked very much the finished article in the lead up to the start.
With a near perfect blend of inshore and offshore talent on board they can be expected to perform well in both the short course and ocean elements of the race. Moreover, their collective Mediterranean experience should give them an advantage in the early stages of the first leg from Alicante to Cape Town.
Multiple world champion and veteran America’s Cup sailor Ken Read is a national sailing treasure back home in the United States and this is his second consecutive Volvo Ocean Race in charge of the PUMA campaign.
Last time breakages and some bad luck ultimately prevented him from challenging effectively for the overall trophy in the latter stages of the race and he was forced to settle for second place.
The oldest competitor in this edition of the Volvo Ocean Race, the 50-year-old Read has famously cited his motivation for winning as being 'so that I never have to sail around the world again'.
Switching this time to a Juan Kouyoumdjian designed boat, Read has packed the PUMA lineup with multiple Volvo Ocean Race winners, including Brad Jackson (3), Tony Mutter (2) and Ryan Godfrey (1).
The PUMA crew clocked up a transatlantic race victory en route from their original base in Newport, Rhode Island, before spending weeks of intensive crew training in on the island of Lanzarote.
Having already sailed more than 10,000 miles together in their new boat Read and his crew look to be one of the most relaxed and confident of the six teams, a factor which Read believes is important for a crew in a 39,000 nautical mile race around the world.
'I could not be happier with the way we communicate, on the boat and off. This crew live and breathe the Volvo Ocean Race and the discussion about how to improve things and make the boat go faster never ever seems to stop.'
Sanderson’s last entry in the Volvo Ocean Race was as skipper of the ABN AMRO ONE team that dominated the 2005-06 edition.
Sanderson’s late entry this time around has necessitated the use of a second hand boat, Telefónica Blue, from the previous edition of the race.
With much less time to prepare than the other teams, the Sanya crew have had to work flat out to refit and rebrand their boat in time to get it to Alicante for the start. Their hard work has paid dividends, however, and despite losing their skipper for two weeks after an emergency appendix operation, Team Sanya look every bit as ready to race as the other five teams.
Likely to lack the raw power of the new boats on the breezier ocean legs, Sanderson is very much focused on winning what he describes as the ‘other race’ – that being the battle to deliver maximum return to his Chinese backers.
'It’s something we talked about a lot in the ABN AMRO campaign. In reality, nobody can deliver more return than the boat that wins the Volvo Ocean Race, but beyond that there is a real chance for us to deliver a massive return for Sanya and our other sponsors.'
A key factor in delivering this sponsor return is the inclusion of Chinese sailor Teng Jiang He, known to the crew as ‘Tiger’.
Despite Team Sanya’s inevitable underdog status, Sanderson and the Team Sanya crew are clearly very far from simply making up the numbers.
Sanderson is the only competing skipper with his name already on the Volvo Ocean Race trophy and the crafty Kiwi has made it clear that he is looking to take some big name scalps along the way.
'The Volvo Ocean Race can be a strange thing and you just never know. For sure we will be poised to capitalize on any mistakes from the other teams on the offshore legs and particularly in the course in-port races.'
Designer: Marcelino Botin and Emirates Team New Zealand
Arguably the most prolific sailing team in the world, Emirates Team New Zealand, CAMPER’s partner in the Volvo Ocean Race, can boast a trophy haul that includes the America’s Cup and many other high profile regatta wins.
In a surprise to some, the Kiwi squad have chosen an Australian, three-time Volvo Ocean Race competitor Chris Nicholson, to lead their first ever round the world race campaign.
Nicholson has adopted a collective team management approach, with co-skipper Stuart Bannatyne, navigator Will Oxley and co-navigator Andrew McLean making up his inner cabinet.
Aside from the intense professionalism and expertise which underpins any ETNZ campaign, CAMPER’s greatest competitive advantage could well be the radical design of their new boat.
The product of a long-term relationship between the ETNZ’s in-house team and designer Marcelino Botín, the CAMPER boat has turned heads for a number of reasons, not least of which being the positioning of the keel in front, rather than behind, the mast. Accordingly, CAMPER's daggerboards look to be located further aft than their competitors.
Also attracting much attention has been CAMPER’s adjustable hydraulic forestay ram, the subject of an unsuccessful collective appeal by several teams who believed it to be outside the measurement rules and an unfair advantage.
After making his debut as a rookie skipper in 2009-09 aboard Green Dragon, British double Olympic silver medallist Ian Walker is back for his second Volvo Ocean Race campaign, this time in charge of the race’s first-ever Arab backed entry.
Well funded and with a head-turning new boat, Azzam, designed by Farr Yacht Design, Walker’s squad includes three previous winners of the race in Rob Greenhalgh, Jules Slater and Justin Slattery as well as young Emirati sailor Adil Khalid making his Volvo Ocean Race debut.
Walker says that the biggest lesson he learned from his experience in the last race was to put as much money as possible into research and development and technology.
'Irrespective of how good your team is and how well prepared you are, in the Volvo Ocean Race, if your boat is fundamentally slow, then nothing else matters.'
'This time around, our relationship with the Farr design team on the boat, the detailed work we have managed to do on sail design and development, and the excellence of our shore crew, all means that we are going into this race well prepared and confident.'
Cammas is one of France’s best-known sportsmen and has a track record of Groupama-backed record-breaking multihull campaigns.
As skipper of the first French entry in the race since Eric Tabarly’s La Poste in 1993, Cammas has approached his first monohull project in a long time with characteristic professionalism.
The Groupama crew is packed with ocean racing talent and Cammas chosen two experienced watch captains in Damian Foxall, a Volvo Ocean Race veteran, as well as Thomas Coville, a fellow multihull record breaker.
If there is an area where Groupama have something to prove it is in the short courses of the in-port racing. Groupama 4 comes from the drawing board of Juan Kouyoumdjian, the winning designer in the last two races, and looks very much to have been optimised for the ocean racing sections of the race.
Carrying as they do the pride of the French nation on their shoulders, Groupama sailing team will not be short of motivation during the 2011-12 edition of the race.