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The Ocean Race: New Zealand entry mooted for 2021/22 event

by Richard Gladwell/ 21 Mar 2019 15:08 PDT 22 March 2019
New Zealand sailor, Bianca Cook announces the New Zealand flagged entry at the online announcement from Alicante, Spain. March 20-21 © Ainhoa Sanchez

Tony Rae, one of the veterans of the Volvo Ocean Race has teamed up with Bianca Cook, who crewed on Turn the Tide on Plastic in the 2017/18 VOR to enter a New Zealand team in the 2021/22 in the next edition of the Round the World race.

The venture was announced towards the end of 30 minute online presentation from the race headquarters in Alicante, Spain.

Now rebadged as The Ocean Race, the event which began in September 1973 as the Whitbread Round the World Race was taken over by the Atlant Sports Group, headed by Richard Brisius, Johan Salén and Jan Litborn and renamed "The Ocean Race". Volvo Cars still remain involved in the event but not as a naming rights sponsor.

Speaking from Auckland's Westhaven Marina, and wearing a Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron shirt, Cook said "after the race finished in The Hague, I was ready to go again and since then I've been working with Trae to put together a team for the next Ocean Race".

"We're looking to have a New Zealand flagged team to race in the Volvo 65's.

"We've definitely got a quite a pool of talent to pick from, and there are a lot of sailors that we're keeping our eye on. But I can't mention anyone just yet - so watch this space", she told a world-wide audience.

Whitbread Round the World Race winner, Tony Rae, who as a then 23yr old sailmaker, first sailed aboard Lion New Zealand with Sir Peter Blake in the 1985/86 Whitbread before going on to win aboard Steinlager 2 - the only boat in the history of the race to have won every leg. Rae sailed in six editions of the race. The America's Cup winner was part of the crew of KZ-7 in Fremantle before his first win in 1995.

The last time a New Zealand flagged boat competed in the then Volvo Ocean Race, was with Camper, the Emirates Team New Zealand backed effort in the 2011/12 VOR, where the Chris Nicholson skippered VO70 finished second overall. Since then there have been behind the scenes moves to put together a New Zealand flagged team, however none left the dock.

The Ocean Race will be sailed in two classes - the VO65 one design used for the last two editions of the Volvo Ocean Race, and a fully crewed version of the foil-assisted IMOCA60 - better known as as short handed trans-oceanic racer.

The latter are tipped to be more expensive than the VO65, however unlike the two races previously, the VO65s will not be owned by the race organisers and will have to be purchased by the teams. Of eight VO65's built, two are privately owned, and the remainder are effectively on the market for use in The Ocean Race.

One other campaign was announced at the Alicante presentation today, that of the Mirpuri Foundation, backer of Turn the Tide on Plastic in the final edition of the Volvo Ocean Race. The Portuguese based foundation has six streams of interest of which Marine Conservation is one. Paulo Mirpuri told the livestreaming audience that the Foundation was exploring the possibility of an IMOCA60 campaign. "I'm extremely interested in the new [IMOCA60] class, which will showcase the best in technology and innovation," he said in a written statement.

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