Knut Frostad, the Volvo Ocean Race CEO continues his discussion on the event just finished and looks forward to 2017:
‘It’s such an intense event to organize as well, and also an intense challenge. Because we work with 11 different countries and government to host the race.
‘We have the sailors going through some of the most dramatic and extreme conditions in the world, and anything could happen. And things do happen, they did happen this time as well.
‘I think the race is kind of a photo album, with fantastic moments.
‘But I must say, one of the first things for me was to see Dongfeng Race Team, how they excelled in the beginning. Having known the story behind how they started with these Chinese sailors, and how Charles and Pascal and all the guys on that boat managed to coach these sailors to become world class so quickly. I was completely blown away by that.
Obviously the Vestas story was for me a huge – it was the downer of the race, but also the upside. Managing to work on that comeback. I think there’s been many, many moments I think – in the stopovers as well.
‘Seeing how people in Brazil were crazy about this race. Like it was the biggest party in the century there out on the docks, waiting for the boats to arrive.
‘Some hilarious moments. I will never ever forget our Danish friend on Team Vestas, when he decided to jump onto the gate mark (in Lorient inshore race) instead of completing the race with his boat, and it was kind of left to that mark. It’s the most hilarious moment I can remember I think on the racetrack here.
‘But and also some very sort of emotional moments. When you realize how much it means to the sailors to stay together as a team. I think in particular the Dongfeng guys, also others have really shown that this race is about passion.
‘I’m incredibly proud of not only the sailors, but really everyone on land. The guys who started the boat yard, now servicing the whole fleet. That was a complete new idea. It has worked out really, really well. Mostly through the people who were in it and how hard they worked, and the attitude they had.
‘I’m incredibly proud of my own team in the Volvo Ocean Race, who have organised up to 170 people – are working day and night for making this race happen, and don’t always get into the limelight and on the TV screens. But they are the ones who make the screens happen, so thank you to all of you..
‘We’ve always had some close finishes, but there has been a lot more of them. We have had eight finishes where boats have been less than five minutes apart after racing across the ocean.
‘For me, what is the most important is that everyone have a shot (at winning). If you are a good sailor, you should have a good shot at it.
‘If you’re a good team, you should have a good shot at it. And there’s no doubt that with the one design fleet, anyone who does a good job, has a good team together, get a good start – they will have a shot at winning.
‘Another thing for me was to make the boats stronger. So they really had a very, very fair chance to always finish.
‘Because we had problems in the past where boats were – there was a benefit to making your boat lighter and lighter until it didn’t make it. And you always were on that borderline. Now we have more margin into the boats, and that really makes a big difference. ‘
On Crew numbers
‘I think we have a good number of the crew. I don’t think we will go to adding more crew members than what we have at the moment.
‘I think the only thing we would look at is if we increased the number of crew you can have for a mixed crew, with men and women.
‘We might increase that with one crew member, we’re discussing that. And we’re also discussing the under 30 rule we have, where there– The under 30 rule should be under 25 or under 26 and not under 30. Or whether it should be more than – the two sailors we have maybe could be three.
‘But we are not discussing changing the eight maximum crew members you can have on board, plus OBR’s. Or the 11 crew members for women.
‘And then when it comes to the boat itself, I think that we will go through a set of improvements for practical purposes.
‘So we will make some changes that will make the boat more user friendly. We will look at the safety side of the boat, if there’s some improvements we can do there.
‘The sails will be new, there will be new designs on the sails. Simply because now we have a lot of data, we know a lot more about how the boat is performing.
‘So I know that the design and geometry of the sails on board will be slightly different. And then I think the boat will remain pretty much the same. We won’t change much of the actual boat, we will keep it.
‘But we are doing a refit in the winter between 2016 and 2017, of the whole fleet. And that refit is also to bring the boats 100% back to one design, to make sure they’re all 100% identical.
‘Look forward, my team is already deep into the next race. I mean they’re already negotiating with the ports for the next race.
‘We’re going to announce the route for the next race by the end of the year.
‘I think on the route, we always like to keep a big portion of the route, and then make some small changes. And that, sometimes we want to change the route just to have a little bit of an evolution each edition. So the race has never ever, since 1973 had the exact same route.
‘So I think we will aim at keeping the route quite the same, but we’ll still have an open page right now on 50% of the route.
‘So we still have quite a few options, and we will look into that. Just highlight again that we see in this race as well how important it is that you work with cities which are really dedicated to the race, and really want to create a great event. So that will be our continued philosophy. We will still do the same.
‘But it’s looking very promising for the next race. We have a lot of interest from a lot of cities. And we have that process running now in parallel, so at least I’m confident that the race will have a good route, with dedicated cities and ports involved.
‘And that whether we will sail more in the Southern Ocean, or the same as we did this time, that is something left to be seen.
‘But I think, and overall we have – we’re pleased with the route we have this time.
‘We tested a new format in The Hague on the way to Gothenburg, with a pit stop that was very short. Using a timed finished and a timed start, using the same time gaps.
‘And the feedback we have had from most of the sailors has been very positive, the feedback from the media we had on site was very positive. And we had a huge audience watching it.
‘So it’s also an interesting experience for us, to see that it’s a way for us to visit a city. Just being there very short, but still have a very big impact. That is good for the race and good for the sponsors.
‘We’re already planning how to work on the boats. We are planning to build a few more boats to make the fleet bigger. But we want all these existing boats to race again. They are built for racing two races.
‘We clearly have experience out there more than strong enough to do that, and they haven’t had any significant problems. So we are deep into the next race already.
‘The next race is roughly two years and four months away. It seems like an eternity.
‘But in fact, it comes very quickly to you.
‘This event is almost over but not quite… the race village here is going to remain open for the next couple of days.
‘People can come down and the boats will be open, they get a chance to step on board.
‘We’re going to open the boats for the public, and they’ll be guided tours on board. I expect long, long, long queues for someone to get the personal experience of being inside the real thing – the boat that has actually just been around the world.
‘And this was almost impossible to do in the past when we had all the secrecy and the customized boats.
‘Now they’re all the same, so they shouldn’t have anything to hide really.
‘I think we will have a lot of people queuing up. I met a little boy on the dock this morning, and he asked me where the queue was.
‘But right now I just want to thank everyone really. It’s so many people who work to make this happen.
‘Almost 4000 volunteers have worked in all the stopovers around the world. Hundreds of people have worked in the stopover managements.
‘All the sponsors of the teams, all the managements of the teams, all the sailors.
‘Finally my own team, and not – last but not least, Volvo Group and Volvo Car Group, who owns this race and who has the ambition and the vision to keep this 42 year old history living– And then, in very good health as it is.