ALICANTE, Spain, November 25 – Richard Mason, four-time Volvo Ocean Race sailor and the man who led the shore crew for Team SCA women’s team in the last edition, has been appointed the event's Head of Port Operations. Mason, 41, will be responsible from the race’s side for the running of all the ports for the next edition in 2017-18 and be personally overseeing half of them, with Adolfo Rodriguez taking care of the others.
Many fans from 2014-15 will remember the Sydney-born sailor as part of the popular TV commentary team. He summed up his new challenge in one word: ‘Huge’.
“We’ll very much run an engaged, flat management,” he said. “We’ll get the right people for the right roles and run a very tight team, where everyone is very much empowered to run their areas. It’s no different from a team taking part in the race – you’ve got to get the right people.”
For the ever-smiling Mason, this will also be a real labour of love. “The harsh brutality of the Volvo Ocean Race is that it’s a life sentence,” he said, only half-joking. “There’s no two ways to approach or look at it any other way. When you’re in it, you’re fully in. It’s a crime of passion and that’s what makes it unique.
”It’s bizarre, it’s mad – but it’s brilliant.”
That love affair, which took in competing in four races prior to 2014-15 onboard Assa Abloy (2001-02), Ericsson 1 (2005-06), Ericsson 3 (2008-09) and Team Sanya (2011-12), began for Mason as a youngster in Auckland during the 1981-82 race.
“My family was closely associated with some of the crew of Ceramco (New Zealand) and Lion (New Zealand), and as a young boy at the ripe old age of about seven, I have photos of me hanging off the wheel on Ceramco in Auckland. I was hooked.
“So I’ve had a fascination and a connection to the race for as long as I can remember. It was just something I wanted to do from a very young age.”
As a youngster eager to learn, he was given the opportunity to sail with some of the New Zealand’s all-time greats like Russell Coutts, Ray Davies, Chris Dixon and Ross Field. The latter introduced him into professional sailing via the Round Europe Race in 1997, onboard a Grand Mistral. Then he was introduced to the late Magnus Olsson through various Swedish connections.
“Magnus invited me to come and trial with Assa Abloy for the 2001-02 race and they were nice enough to give me a spot and off we went. I’ve never looked back since,” he said.“It’s the age old story of it getting into your blood and you’re in a world of trouble.”
Mason plans to continue working as a commentator for the Race after making his debut in the 12th edition.
“I was thrown in the deep end sitting there next to our producer, who was looking wild-eyed, and saying to himself: ‘God, I know what he’s thinking – he’d better not say it!’”
Typically, Mason took on the new challenge in his stride but, make no mistake, his heart will be always be with the sailors on the water.
He summed himself up: “There’s enough drive for sailing left there to keep a firm engagement with the roots of the race.”