VOR CEO explains how auto technology changed the ocean race

ALICANTE, Spain, October 4 – Volvo Ocean Race CEO Knut Frostad today revealed how he and his team used know-how from the event’s parent companies to pull off the game-changing introduction of a new strictly one-design boat for the event.

He surprised many in the sailing world by introducing the concept two years ago for the 2014-15 edition of sailing’s leading offshore event which starts today in Alicante, Spain with an in-port race. The same boats will also be used for the 2017-18 race.

Previously, competing teams in the 41-year-old competition had been able to make their own modifications within certain restrictions, similar to Formula 1 motor racing.

Now all teams must use a boat which is identical to the last detail and weighs exactly the same (12,500 kilograms).

Frostad explained to a news conference also attended by the Volvo Cars Group CEO, Håkan Samuelsson, and President of AB Volvo and CEO of the Volvo Group, Olof Persson, that he needed the race’s owners’ assistance to achieve his vision of a production line of race boats.

“We asked Volvo Cars and Volvo Group how they start a new production line,” he said. “We used the Volvo Cars model a lot – how to do it in industry. We had to change not just ourselves but our suppliers’ mind-sets.

“These suppliers had never made two identical pieces. If we didn’t have the backing (of the Volvo companies) we wouldn’t have undertaken the risk.”

The two Volvo companies’ CEOs confirmed to the conference that the change to one-design yachting including a centralised maintenance resource, which puts the onus on the sailors not their vessels to succeed, had their full backing.

“It’s a big improvement putting the focus on the people on board. Our concept at Volvo Cars is that we design around you – you can see similarities between the two. We use technology to achieve both,” said Samuelsson.

Persson explained why his companies had put more focus than ever on the event as a marketing tool at a time when many rival attractions are competing for their support.

“The endurability and the thrill of going around the world are key for us. We can interact with customers around the world in a setting that goes along with what we want to achieve. This world class event gets so much attention around the world. We’re very happy to drive the development of that.”

The Race CEO also took the opportunity to confirm that the next edition, in 2017-18, will also be starting in the event’s home port of Alicante as part of a long-term contract with local authorities there.

Frostad concluded: “I’ve never been more optimistic than I am today. The biggest game changer is the attitude I see in the race now. It reminds me of when I started as a young sailor. Teams have realised that sharing works, this is about them. I see a lot of optimism about future editions.”

The first leg of the nine-month, 38,739-nautical mile event that takes in 11 ports on the way to its conclusion in Gothenburg, Sweden on June 27, 2015, starts next Saturday (October 11). The boats leave for Alicante for Cape Town and should arrive in around three or four weeks depending on conditions.

Teams from Spain, Turkey/USA, Sweden, Denmark, Abu Dhabi, The Netherlands and China are competing.

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