Monday, June 22, 2009

Breaking Bite: The Future Of The Volvo Ocean Race

Members of the media, skippers, syndicates and anyone interested in the future of the Volvo Ocean Race filed into this lovely "ship" for a press conference lead by Knut Frostad, CEO of the Volvo Ocean Race.

He began the presentation with a short video clip bringing us all back to 1973 when the pace was slower and few people knew of this race or it's people. We were quickly fast forwarded to 2008 and scenes of today's Volvo Open 70s reaching along. The race has changed, and for the good.

The presentation walked us through the impressive results of 2008-09, beginning with race details demonstrating how close the on-the-water competition was:
  • Leg 3 (Cochin-Singapore): Top 4 boats within 19m 26sec!
  • Leg 6 (Rio-Boston): Top 3 boats within 17m 52sec! (I won't forget that all nighter!)
  • Leg 7 (Boston-Galway): 22m 29sec between 2nd & 4th!
  • Leg 8 (Galway-Marstrand): Less than 1m between 2/3 and 5/6!
  • Leg 9 (Marstrand-Stockholm): 90sec between 1st and 2nd!!!! (This was the most impressive site, a true drag race!)
From there, jumped into the amazing spectator numbers, including the last count from this past Friday here in Stockholm. Total number thus far: 3,343,241, a 157% increase from 2005-06 edition of the race!!

It just got better and better as the numbers were all a massive increase from the event prior, however it was the online video game which stole the show! They were not sure how this virtual gaming venture would pan out and hoped for maybe 50,000 players. Folks, there are 219,499 players from 186 countries (June 21st.) With 79,000 online each day with 21,000 playing at the same time. Even better, 50% of them are non-sailors embracing the sport for the first time!

Why is the game such a success? It's unpredictable. This point tapped into another element about the Volvo Ocean Race which intrigues so many people: the natural unpredictability of events due to weather and interactions with the natural world.

There are many elements to this race which warrant it as the number one sailing event in the world of sailing (this may be my opinion of course.) Though Knut pealed away from the numbers and began a discussion on what's going on today for tomorrow.

We will see the event continue to embrace the world of new media, shorter and fewer stop-overs (11 ports to 8 or 9) and a shorter event as a whole. The 2011-12 event will start in Alicante Spain, sail a Western to Eastern course, completing the circumnavigation in Europe. There are 82 cities seriously competing in the bidding process to host one of these stops.

Currently, no teams have made formal announcements. Though, genuine interest and hope is to see 10-12 teams on the line in Alicante 2011. Alicante will see the Volvo Ocean Race Headquarters take shape in the start of the New Year with one exciting long term element: An event museum, visitor attraction to be added to the building housing the Headquarters.

For addition information, read the event's report.

It was a lengthy press conference and all quickly made way to the docks for some sailing. It's been a beautiful day in Stockholm, though light variable breeze for the Pro-am Racing.

Though most folks where back to a typical working schedule, the shore-line was well "dotted" with spectators, and in the most unusual places as well.

These last two days will be quite hectic as I sit down with all the Media Crew Members to disuss their contributions to the book and role in the race. Quite excited about them. These "characters" are extremely intriguing.

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