re-sized Volvo World Ocean Race

Extreme Ocean Racing

We received many comments from both race organisers and individuals interested in the Vendee Globe in which the last competitor finished on March 15th and therefore thought it only right to mention another mighty world circumnavigation that is currently underway. The Volvo Ocean Race is an exceptional test of sailing prowess and human endeavour which has been built on the spirit of great seafarers – fearless men who sailed the world’s oceans aboard square rigged clipper ships more than a century ago.

Their challenge back then was not a race as such, but recording the fastest time between ports. This meant new levels of pride for themselves and great recognition for their vessel.

The spirit that drove those commercial sailors along the web of trade routes, deep into the bleak latitudes of the Southern Ocean and around the world’s most dangerous capes, emerges today in the form of the Volvo Ocean Race, a contest now seen as the pinnacle of achievement in the sport.

We are extremely grateful to the Volvo Ocean Race website for this historical information.

The first edition of this sporting adventure came in the wake of two remarkable sailors of the last century, Sir Francis Chichester and Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, men who drew worldwide acclaim for amazing solo voyages around the planet. Inevitably their success led to talk in international sailing circles of a race around the world for fully crewed yachts. It became a reality in 1973 with The Whitbread round the World Race, the longest, most demanding and perilous sporting contest the world had known.

Dangerous it was. In that very first race three competing sailors were lost after being washed overboard during storms. This led to the inevitable call for that inaugural contest to be the last, but the desire for unbridled adventure and great competition led to the race being staged every four years.

The re-badged Volvo Ocean Race was run for the first time in 2001-02. Today it is, quite simply, the ‘Everest of Sailing’.

During the nine months of the 2008-09 Volvo, which starts in Alicante, Spain in October 2008 and concludes in St Petersburg, Russia, during late June 2009, the teams will sail over 37,000 nautical miles of the world’s most treacherous seas via Cape Town, Kochi, Singapore, Qingdao, around Cape Horn to Rio de Janeiro, Boston, Galway, Goteborg and Stockholm.

Each of the seven entries has a sailing team of 11 professional crew, and the race requires their utmost skills, physical endurance and competitive spirit as they race day and night for more than 30 days at a time on some of the legs. They will each take on different jobs onboard the boat and on top of these sailing roles, there will be two sailors that have had medical training, as well as a sailmaker, an engineer and a media specialist.

During the race the crews will experience life at the extreme: no fresh food is taken onboard so they live off freeze dried fare, they will experience temperature variations from -5 to +40 degrees Celsius and will only take one change of clothes. They will trust their lives to the boat and the skipper and experience hunger and sleep deprivation.

The race is the ultimate mix of world class sporting competition and on the edge adventure, a unique blend of onshore glamour with offshore drama and endurance.

It is undeniably the world’s premier global race and one of the most demanding team sporting events in the world.

Volvo World Ocean Race

Volvo World Ocean Race

The promotional video below from Darkxtremheb will give you a better idea of what is involved in this extreme test of stamina, sailing skill, nerve and team effort.

The race is now well under way and the boats having rounded Cape Horn are heading north for their next port of call which is Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. That will mark the end of leg 5 whereupon the teams will have to ready themselves for the 6th leg from Rio to Boston which starts on April 11th at 13.00 hours local time.

At the time of writing Ericsson 4 leads the 8 teams overall with Puma in second place and Telefonica Blue in third place. But it is likely to be Ericsson 3 that is the first boat to arrive into Rio with Ericsson 4, Puma and Green Gragon making the most of some difficult sailing conditions – high pressure.

However with another 5 legs to be completed it is not unreasonable to say that anything could happen. For up to date information we suggest you log onto the official race website – the link for which follows:

This is without doubt one of the most extreme sporting events happening in the world today.

Photo courtesy of MauritsV

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