• Simeon Tienpont checks progress on the new hull.  Photo Giovanni Malgarini/Team Akzonobel.
    Simeon Tienpont checks progress on the new hull. Photo Giovanni Malgarini/Team Akzonobel.
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ALICANTE, Spain, March 8 – Team AkzoNobel will compete in the 2017-18 edition of the Volvo Ocean Race in a brand new boat. The crew, led by Dutch skipper Simeon Tienpont, will tackle sailing’s toughest team test in the new Volvo Ocean 65 currently being constructed at Persico Marine in Bergamo, Italy.

The boat, scheduled for completion in May, is identical to the current one-design fleet of seven Volvo Ocean 65s which competed in the 2014-15 edition.

Tienpont, who made the team’s milestone announcement on Wednesday at the HISWA Amsterdam Boatshow, said: “Team AkzoNobel is a brand-new team being built from the ground up – so a brand-new boat feels right. Every new boat is exciting, but this one is something special. It doesn’t seem very long since I started planning out this campaign on my kitchen table at home, so it’s a great feeling to now see our boat coming to fruition.”

Explaining the motivation behind the decision to commission the build of the new boat, he said: “Our goal is to be the best prepared team on the start line in Alicante, so, our first choice was always to have a new boat built. If you have that option, it’s a no-brainer decision to make when you are racing around the world.”

And Tienpont, a double-America’s Cup winner who has twice raced the Volvo Ocean Race before, onboard ABN Amro Two in 2005-06 and Team Vestas Wind in 2014-15, admitted to having butterflies in his stomach when he first laid eyes on the new boat.

“My wife thinks it’s crazy but I always have a special bond with the boats that I race,” he confessed. “Just like some people bond with the horse that they ride or their pet dog, I relate emotionally to the boat that I race.”

The existing fleet is currently undergoing a one-million-euros-per-boat re-fit procedure at The Boatyard in Lisbon, Portugal.

The new boat, which has been constructed using the same materials and moulds as the rest of the fleet, will shortly be transported to Lisbon, where it will undergo rigorous testing to ensure it adheres to the strict one-design criteria.

“We have a christening ceremony planned in the Netherlands for the summer,” Tienpont said. “Bringing our boat home for the first time will be an exciting moment and an opportunity for our Dutch supporters to see it.

“The Volvo Ocean Race is hugely popular in the Netherlands. In the same way that the French public loves the Vendée Globe, the Dutch are crazy about the Volvo Ocean Race. As a Dutchman, I’m immensely proud to be skippering a Dutch Volvo Ocean Race campaign.”

Nick Bice, Chief Technical Development Officer at the Volvo Ocean Race, has overseen the re-fit process of the existing Volvo Ocean 65s, and is delighted to see an extra boat joining the fleet.

“It’s hugely exciting to expand the fleet ahead of the next edition,” he said. “Team AkzoNobel signed up early in the cycle, so they had time to build a new boat, and it will be a great benefit to them in terms of their brand fit.”

He added: “The new boat will be identical to the existing fleet in every regard. All of the Volvo Ocean 65s were built to race in at least two editions, and the seven that finished the 2014-15 edition are in fantastic condition.

“You won’t be able to tell the difference between the brand new boat, and one of the old ones,” he added. “And there is no reason why an existing boat, sailed properly, cannot win the next Volvo Ocean Race.”

The Volvo Ocean Race starts from Alicante on 22 October 2017 and finishes in The Hague in the summer of 2018. The teams will complete a course of around 45,000 nautical miles, visiting a total of 12 Host Cities around the world.

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