Volvo Ocean Race starts tomorrow Saturday, 29th October 2011 in Alicante, Spain at 1200 GMT/UTC (1400 local time). The six world class professional sailing teams will do battle for the first time in the Iberdrola In-Port Race.
Alicante practice race, ahead of the Iberdrola In-Port Race in Alicante - Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12
The six teams, who for many months have been meticulously preparing their state-of-the-art, multi-million-euro racing yachts, will line up for real in a quickfire sprint, their first chance to put points on the scoreboard in the 39,000 nautical mile race around the world.
The course for the in-port race will be set close to the Race Village and adjacent Postiguet Beach, to give crowds a grandstand view of the fast and furious action. On the eve of the Iberdrola In-Port Race it was Camper with Emirates Team New Zealand who looked sharpest, starting slowly before picking up breeze to finish first in the practice race.
Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing were behind them, followed by Puma Ocean Racing powered by BERG, Groupama sailing team, Team Sanya and Team Telefónica, according to provisional results.
The first of the 10 in-port races takes place one week before the boats set off on the first of nine ocean legs, a 20-day, 6,500 nautical mile passage from Alicante to Cape Town, South Africa. From there they will visit Abu Dhabi (UAE), Sanya (China), Auckland (New Zealand), Itajaí (Brazil), Miami (USA), Lorient (France) and Lisbon (Portugal) before the finish in Galway (Ireland) in July.
The fleet is the most competitive the race has ever seen with all six teams closely matched and fully funded.
Sanya skipper Mike Sanderson is the only sailor competing this time to have previously led a team to victory in the Volvo Ocean Race (ABN Amro One in 2005-06). A late entry this time, Sanderson and his team will be racing a second generation boat and while New Zealander is embracing the team's underdog position he is predicting a knife-edge contest.
'The level of the teams in this race is exceptionally high,' Sanderson said. 'Never before has it been so hard to pick a favourite. We have an incredibly level playing field and it’s going to be an amazing race.'
Having finished second in the last race in 2008-09, Puma Ocean Racing, skippered by multiple world champion and America’s Cup veteran Ken Read from Newport, Rhode Island, are expected to mount another strong challenge.
'This race often puts the sailors in the most miserable spot they could be on earth,' said Read. 'You are either boiling hot or freezing cold and you are always wet, sleep deprived and hungry. Other than that it’s fantastic!'
British double Olympic silver medallist Ian Walker is back for his second campaign as skipper, this time with Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing.
Telefónica are led by Spain’s Iker Martínez, an Olympic gold and silver medallist with Xabi Fernández, who is part of his crew here.
Camper is skippered by multiple Olympian and three-time Volvo Ocean Race veteran, Australian Chris Nicholson. With an extensive trophy haul that includes the America’s Cup, Emirates Team New Zealand are amongst the world’s most successful professional sailing teams.
Groupama sailing team, the first French entry in the Volvo Ocean race since Eric Tabarly’s La Poste in 1993, are led by Franck Cammas, a multihull record breaker and one of his country’s best known sportsmen.
During their marathon race around the world, the 11-man crews – 10 sailors and one embedded Media Crew Member -- will have to deal with mountainous seas, extremes of temperature and hurricane force winds as well as having to negotiate some of the planet’s most hazardous commercial shipping lanes.
The escalating threat of piracy in the Indian Ocean forced the race organisers to redraw the course for the second and third legs. Now, on the way from Cape Town to Abu Dhabi, the teams will race to a ‘safe haven’ port, before being transported to a re-start venue to complete the leg in a sprint to the finish in Abu Dhabi. The process will be reversed for the third leg from Abu Dhabi to Sanya, China.
The Iberdrola In-Port Race will take around an hour to complete. Racing will be streamed live at online and will be accompanied by a live blog of the action.
HD live coverage for desktop browsers will also be available through the New Livestream platform, which includes video, photos, audio and text updates here.
The first offshore leg of the Volvo Ocean Race, from Alicante to Cape Town, starts on November 5.
For a breakdown of the Volvo Ocean Race scoring system click here.
Volvo Ocean Race website