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Volvo Ocean Race call time out on 2019/20 event, CEO resigns

by Richard Gladwell, on 26 Sep 2017
June 21, 2015. The Volvo Ocean 65 fleet as they sail past Denmark during the sunset, as they face the last miles to the finish line in Gothenburg. Mapfre, Dongfeng Race Team Carlo Borlenghi/Volvo Ocean Race
Volvo Ocean Race has announced that the 2019/20 event will not take place as scheduled, and the organisers say that additional planning time is required before further announcements can take place.

The CEO of Volvo Ocean Race Mark Turner has stepped down, and a replacement is being sought. Turner had been in place for just 16 months, replacing Knut Frostad who had guided the race for the previous eight years.

The 2019/20 race was scheduled to start on a two-year instead of a three-year cycle and to use a new Volvo 60 foiling monohull. The building of a mockup of that boat is well advanced. However, construction of the prototype has not commenced.

Also apparently on hold is the plan to use a new wingsailed foiling multihull for In-Port Racing.

The organisers say there will be no change of plans for the 2017/18 edition of the race, which gets underway in less than four weeks time.

There are seven teams entered in the current edition of the race, one short of the hoped-for eight teams. One new boat was built for the current edition.

Reading between the lines on the official statement, it would seem that the pace of change and capital requirements are too much for the backers of the race.

Had the race proceeded as planned it would have been necessary to build a new fleet of foiling 60ft monohulls with a parallel fleet of wing sailed foiling multihulls to be used in the In-Port racing. The plan with the move to the 60fter was to develop a boat which could enter other races for IMOCA60's. However, the DSS (dynamic stability system) foiling technology was used in the Vendee Globe race for the first time in the 2016/17 edition of the race. In the 2015 Transat Jacques Vabre, six IMOCA60 yachts started with the DSS foils, and only one finished. That number increased to five out of six starters in the late Vendee Globe, and it would seem that the technology still has a way to go before it can be considered to be mainstream for a race such as the Volvo Ocean Race.

The last edition of the Volvo Ocean Race was the first with one design Volvo 65's built under strict control by the race organisers. That move solved several issues - being the design contest which resulted in unique designs being produced, coupled with a high drop-out rate with one leg only being completed unassisted by two of the six entries.

The move to one designs proved successful with the drop out rate being resolved (save for one entanglement with an Indian Ocean reef) and with the boats finishing within a few hours rather than spread over several days.

It seems from the concluding response in the self-posed questions and answers that consideration is being given to using the Volvo 65 fleet for a third edition of the 45,000nm race, after which it may be that the switch to the Super60 would be made.

It is not known if the Volvo Ocean Race decision will have any bearing on the recent decision to opt for a (foiling) monohull to be used in the 2021 America's Cup. French designer Guillaume Verdier is heavily involved in both projects.

A more conservative approach is expected if the next event is to proceed.

The statement from Volvo Ocean Race follows:

Following discussions with key stakeholders, it has been determined that additional planning time is required to implement the recently announced changes to the race schedule. As a result, the proposed 2019-20 race in new boats will not take place as planned. A revised schedule for future Volvo Ocean Races will be announced as soon as possible. Volvo remains committed to ensuring that any planned changes deliver long-term sustainable benefits to the race and participating teams.

The design work on the exciting new Super 60 concept, at the forefront of foiling offshore monohull technology, continues.

The current 2017-18 Volvo Ocean Race is completely unaffected by this change and will proceed as publicly announced.

As a consequence of this review to the race schedule, the current CEO for the race Mark Turner has decided to step down from his current position. He will remain in the CEO role until a successor is appointed, a search for which has started.

“Whilst we regret the fact that Mark has decided to step down from his current role, we are grateful for the hard work and contribution over the last 16 months. The leadership team Mark has put in place will ensure the race remains both a world-class sailing and business platform and we wish him all the best for the future,” says Henry Stenson, Chairman of the Volvo Ocean Race supervisory board.

“Although I have decided to step down from my position, I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to lead the Volvo Ocean Race at this important time. I am confident the 2017-18 race will be one of the best ever,” says Mark Turner.

Volvo Ocean Race ready for start of race in October 2017

The 2017-18 Volvo Ocean Race will start in Alicante on October 22, 2017 and finish in The Hague in June 2018, visiting 12 stopovers (Alicante, Lisbon, Cape Town, Melbourne, Hong Kong, Guangzhou, Auckland, Itajaí, Newport, Cardiff, Gothenburg, The Hague) in the epic around the world adventure covering 45,000 nautical miles. The race will be made up of 7 highly qualified and professional sailing teams, including some of the world’s most accomplished and experienced sailors.
The teams are: Team AkzoNobel, Dongfeng Race Team, MAPFRE, Vestas 11th Hour Racing, Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag, Turn The Tide on Plastic and Team Brunel.


Q: Will there be an impact on the 2017-18 Volvo Ocean Race?

A: No impact on the current edition of the race is expected. Mark Turner’s role was primarily focused on future strategy. The Leadership Team is very well prepared and ready to deliver an outstanding sporting and sponsorship experience. Mark Turner will remain as CEO until a successor is appointed.

Q: It was announced in May that future races would be held in a two year cycle, rather than the current three year cycle, has that changed?

A: AB Volvo and Volvo Cars are committed to developing the race going forward as announced in May, including optimizing the race cycle. However, following discussions between the two owners of the event, it has been determined that in order to fully implement the announced changes additional planning time is required, specifically in relation to the race cycle. A final decision will follow at a later stage.

Q: It was recently announced that the next Race would start in 2019, is that still the case?

A: Following discussions between Volvo companies, it has been determined that in order to fully implement the announced changes additional planning time is required, specifically in relation to the race cycle. A final decision on this will follow at a later stage. This rules out a race start in 2019 with new boats, however the Volvo Ocean Race leadership team is developing plans to ensure activation opportunities and stakeholder return using the existing boats.

Q: A number of additional initiatives were announced in May aimed at developing the sporting and commercial value further, are these other initiatives still going ahead?

A: Yes, that is the intention.

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