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Potent Volvo Ocean Race cocktail given a resounding shake

by Brian Hancock on 27 Sep 2017
Volvo Ocean Race CEO - Mark Turner Volvo Ocean Race
There has been a big shake-up at the Volvo Ocean Race and it comes less than a month before the next race is scheduled to start from Alicante, the port city on Spain’s Mediterranean coast.

The big news is that Mark Turner is stepping down from his role as CEO. It’s not clear whether Mark is jumping or was pushed but my guess is that he found it difficult to work within the constraints of a huge organization where there are so many stakeholders each with their own agenda. Mark is used to having pretty much sole autonomy over things and getting things done on his own terms without having to move the whole ship along with him.

As an aside, I first noticed the size of the Volvo Ocean Race organization in 2012 when I attended the Volvo Legends Regatta in Alicante. There were literally hundreds of people working for the event all dressed in matching Musto outfits. There seemed to be more people employed by Volvo than all of the teams put together and I could not help but wonder how (and why) it had become so unwieldy. I hate to sound old here but ‘in my day’ it took less than a half dozen people to manage the race and that was back in the day when there was 15-18 entries. Anyway I digress.

When Mark Turner as appointed CEO in May 2015 I was thrilled. I have known Mark for a long time and have admired his drive and ambition. The VOR needed a good shake-up and if anyone was capable of getting the event back on the right track it was Mark. What followed was a series of announcements aimed at reining in costs, broadening the appeal to potential sponsors and a new boat that could potentially be used for both the Volvo Ocean Race and the Vendée Globe. This all followed on the announcement that the course would be more along the lines of the earlier races with two long Southern Ocean legs.

The official statement put out by the VOR organizers make it clear that this latest shake-up will not have any effect on the upcoming race. Well that’s good to know since we are just 25 days away from the start. They have announced that the scheduled 2019/20 race will not take place and that their breakthrough new boat will not be ready on schedule. My guess is that Mark Turner faced opposition and challenges at every turn from an organization that used to be nimble but has now become a slow moving monolith. No place for an innovator like Turner.

Please note that that this is all speculation on my part and that I have no inside knowledge. But I do have almost six decades on this planet and have been an astute (an often critical) observer of the Volvo Ocean Race.

The best thing to happen to the event in a long time was the appointment of Mark Turner as CEO and now I wonder where things will go as the ship sails rudderless while they look for a replacement CEO. It’s a pity they can’t tap Dalts but he seems to be a tad busy these days. Maybe they should ask Jared Kushner…:)

A sailor with multiple round the world races to his credit - fully crewed and shorthanded - Brian Hancock is the author of the definitive book on sailmaking - Maximum Sail Power - and the author of the All About Sails blog.

For more from Brian Hancock click here

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