ALICANTE, Spain, October 2 – It’s been two long years of waiting but the Volvo Ocean Race returns to action in the opening Alicante in-port race on Saturday with anticipation rising thanks to a new one-design boat which promises the closest competition in the event's 41-year history.
The in-shore showdown marks the first competitive action since Franck Cammas’ French crew on Groupama lifted offshore’s most prestigious trophy back in June 2012.
This time, the seven-strong fleet will be competing for a second competition – the Volvo Ocean Race In-Port Series – in Saturday’s race rather than points which count towards the overall prize.
Only if teams finish exactly equal on points in the offshore legs at the conclusion of the Volvo Ocean Race 2014-15 in June next year will the in-port positions count as a tie-breaker.
The one-hour race around the southern Spanish port city’s harbour will give crews, media and fans alike the chance to see the new one-design Volvo Ocean 65 boats in serious action.
Whether the event will be a reliable form guide for the race proper is unlikely – in 2011, Ian Walker’s Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing boat won the in-port race in Alicante and then suffered a broken mast within hours of starting Leg 1 a week later.
But all crews are taking it very seriously with Leg 1 to Cape Town starting exactly a week after the Alicante in-port race on October 11.
“We always look forward to lining up against the other teams,” Walker said. “With the leg start just a week away it’s important that we protect the boat and the sails, but we will be gunning for a good result to kick off the campaign in style and give the fans back in Abu Dhabi something to cheer about.
“All the teams are very competitive and will also be out to win, so I’m sure the race will be an exciting spectacle,” he added.
The crew will welcome Britain’s Olympic medal-winning triathlon brothers Jonathan and Alistair Brownlee as guests on board, two men who know all about sport at its toughest.
The all-women’s crew of Team SCA, the first in the event since the 2001-02 race, were admitting some understandable apprehension mid-week about starting well.
“Although the in-port race doesn’t count towards the final result, we feel like we can still do a good performance and psychologically it’d be good to get a strong start to race properly,” said skipper Sam Davies. “We know that it’s not our strength, we’ve got to work hard.”
The action begins at 1400 local time (1200 GMT). The action will be shown live on www.volvooceanrace.com from 1350.
The teams are Team SCA (Sweden), Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, Team Brunel (The Netherlands), Dongfeng Race Team (China), Team Alvimedica (Turkey/U.S.), MAPFRE (Spain), Team Vestas Wind (Denmark).