Volvo Ocean Race to get underway from Sunday

Considered one of the toughest sporting events in the globe, the race — which is in its thirteenth edition — will cover cities like Alicante, Lisbon, Cape Town, Melbourne, Hong Kong, Guangzhou, Auckland, Itajaí, Newport, Cardiff, Gothenburg, before concluding at The Hague in June, next year.

The race team skippers at a media conference ahead of the Volvo Ocean Race in Alicante on Friday.   -  SHAYAN ACHARYA

For the last few days, the quaint, scenic Spanish city has been brimming with enthusiasm. A walk around the city would make one realise that people from various parts of the world have gathered in this rather small port city for some sailing experience. And it's not just for a leisurely weekend, but for the Volvo Ocean Race, which flags off here on Sunday.

Considered one of the toughest sporting events in the globe, the race — which is in its thirteenth edition — will cover cities like Alicante, Lisbon, Cape Town, Melbourne, Hong Kong, Guangzhou, Auckland, Itajaí, Newport, Cardiff, Gothenburg, before concluding at The Hague in June, next year.

On Friday as the seven team skippers attended the media conference, they made it clear that their ultimate target will be to clinch the title, battling the odds in the next nine months. "It would be challenging for sure, but then, that's what makes it more interesting," Dee Caffari, the skipper of the team, Turn the Tide on the Plastic, told Sportstar.

Interestingly, among the seven participating teams, Caffari is the only female captain of a side. The vastly experienced sailor from England, however, isn't ready to think much about the gender differences. "That means very little to me. The challenge is as much as it is for the men sailors," Caffari said, adding that her team has a combination of male and female sailors. "Five of us are women, the other five are men. As a captain, I don't face any challenges. It's all about managing the people," the skipper, who left teaching job in England to take up sailing seventeen years ago, added.

 

Teams and the captains

Team AkzoNobel (The Netherlands) Captain: Brad Jackson.

Dongfeng Race Team (China) Captain: Charles Caudrelier.

Mapfre (Spain) Captain: Xabi Fernandez Vestas.

11th Hour Racing (Denmark/USA) Captain: Charlie Enright. 

Team Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag (Hong Kong) Captain: David Witt.

Turn the Tide on Plastic (Portugal) Captain: Dee Caffari.

Team Brunel (The Netherlands) Captain: Bouwe Bekking.

 

The race, which started in 1973 as a mere adventure, has got a boost in Indian IT giant, HCL Technologies, joining it as the IT sponsor for the event. And the chief digital officer of the Volvo Ocean Race, Jordie Neves believes this will help them explore the technology better. "With such big companies coming in, the things have improved for the race. Technology can now be used flexibly and accurately to predict some of the problems the sailors face," Neves told Sportstar.

HCL's corporate vice-president, Infrastructure Services Sales EMEA, Ashish Gupta, too agrees in similar lines. "It is about looking at where technology is making its mark," an optimistic Gupta said. While the organisers believe that the new partnership will help in improving the sailing experience, the skippers are bracing up for some real competition in the Mediterranean Sea. "The competition will certainly be tough this time around. But with a good team, consistency will be the key," Charlie Enright, the skipper of Vestas 11th Hour Racing, said.

The race, which happens in a gap of three years, was last held in 2014 with Alicante as the starting point. And this time, as the mega tournament begins, more than 13 women sailors will be taking the sea along with the male counterparts. That certainly remains one of the major attractions of the event, which will cover 45,000 miles in the next nine months. And a couple of days before the flag off, it's this excitement that is keeping Alicante alive and buzzing!

(The writer is on an invitation by HCL Technologies)