Published: Tuesday, 18 October 2016

The Volvo Ocean Race (VOR) will be introducing innovative new team bases at all the host cities in 2017-18.

Volvo Ocean Race Enhances Teams Fans Interaction And Uses M32s At Premiere Battle

(Photos: Ainhoa Sanchez/Volvo Ocean Race & Aston Harald)

Combined with the large scale Boatyard facility introduced in host cities in the last edition, where repairs are carried out on the boats in full view of the public, they will form the ultimate ‘pit lane’ where the public will be able to see what before has gone on ‘behind closed doors’ and interact with crews in a casual environment.

“We’re trying to bring the fans into our living rooms so they can get a feel for what really goes on there,” says Operations Director Richard Mason. “They are for the teams, and their partners, but are also much more of an open interface for the public.”

Volvo Ocean Race Enhances Teams Fans Interaction And Uses M32s At Premiere Battle 1

The development is the fourth in a series of 10 announcements from the Volvo Ocean Race, and is just one of a number of turnkey solutions from the race organisation designed to limit the costs and operational complexities for teams – the new team bases will be both built and dismantled by the race organisation – allowing race teams more time to focus on winning the race on the water.

“That face to face contact with the heroes is key,” Mason adds. “I remember when I was a kid and the race visited Auckland, my hometown. I went to meet Sir Peter Blake who lifted me up onto the helm of his boat Ceramco. I instantly knew that this was what I wanted to do with my life.”

The new team bases will be open to the public on the ground floor. They will not only form a base for the sailing teams within the Race Villages where the teams work on a day to day basis as they get ready for the next leg, but also provide an additional space for intimate sponsor activation to complement the sponsors larger scale activation operations on site with bespoke pavilions for product display and hospitality.

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Aside from the advantage of bringing the fans closer to the shore action, the efficient design of the bases means that they fold down more easily into shipping containers, saving valuable space and time as the event travels around the globe.

“In the Volvo Ocean Race, timing is everything and the ability to build up and dismantle these Race Villages quickly is vital,” says Volvo Ocean Race Village Experience Manager Quérine van Osch. “We’re always striving for innovation in everything we do, and this solution is amazing. The container actually becomes part of the structure, so it’s super efficient, and will reduce the number of containers we ship around the planet by up to 60%.”

Volvo Ocean Race Enhances Teams Fans Interaction And Uses M32s At Premiere Battle 2

Meanwhile, VOR will also use the M32 catamaran in eight of the stopovers of the 2017-2018 edition of the world’s premiere offshore race. Eight team-branded catamarans will make sure to keep the spotlight on high-performance sailing in the Race Billage.

Each VOR entry, in addition to their Volvo Ocean 65 monohull racing around the globe, will also have an M32 catamaran shipped from port to port as part of their sponsor inventory. The specific aim is to increase the number of sponsor client, city and media guests that get to experience high-performance sailing during the stopovers between the ocean legs. 

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In the fifth of a series of 10 Volvo Ocean Race announcements in two weeks, Race Director Phil Lawrence reveals that the M32 boats, which weigh just 510kg and can sail in most weather conditions in stadium mode, will be used in both guest sailing and Pro-Am racing mode during the final days of at least eight of the 11 Host Cities the global race visits.

“One of the unique selling points for sponsorship in sailing is that we can literally put guests in the driving seat so they experience the real thing – we need to maximise this opportunity to help attract sponsors.”

The presence of the high adrenalin 32-foot racing cats will add to the spectacle in the host cities over the final days of each stopover, and they will be used in a stadium sailing format for Pro-Am racing on the Saturday before the race restarts. 

“We had over 70,000 corporate guests tasting a slice of the Volvo Ocean Race last time around, and we want to get as many of those visitors out on the water as possible,” explains Lawrence, who was Race Director of the pioneering stadium-racing Extreme Sailing Series before joining the Volvo Ocean Race earlier this year. “The challenge that we have found is that the pressure of preparing the boats and crew for the next offshore leg limits guest sailing opportunities, especially leading up to the In-Port Race and departure day.

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“That’s the main driver for introducing M32 boats into our stopovers. Our aim is to get even more people to have that unique experience on the water, even more entertainment on the water for the public, and even more value for sponsors in each host city.”

In 2014-15, the race saw over 2,400 corporate guests take spots onboard the Volvo Ocean 65s. With the addition of the M32s, that number will rise four-fold to almost 10,000. The Race organisers will provide each team with a branded M32 in their colours, assembled, rigged and ready to race, so as not to add more burden to their already high-pressure, pre-race period.

In addition, each M32 will come with a bespoke RIB (rigid inflatable boat) for guest transfers. This package again enforces the race organiser’s commitment to reduce any stress or extra organisational needs for the teams by having a ‘ready to go’ guest sailing solution.

Designed by Swedish sailors Göran Marström and Kåre Ljung, the M32 catamaran offers a unique blend of simplicity and ease of handling, combined with lightweight construction and thrilling performance. 

“This partnership with Volvo Ocean Race is very exciting for me personally, since the race has meant so much for me as a sponsor since back in the 2008-09 and the 2011-12 editions when we were Berg Propulsion,” says Aston Harald AB CRO Håkan Svensson, who is also the Owner of the rights and design of the M32 catamaran." 

“We used the Volvo Ocean Race as a very successful platform to do business from, with an impressive return on investment of 11:1 over 13 months. That has inspired me to do what we now do with the M32 class and the World Match Racing Tour, in creating a platform for the broader market and a pathway for the sailors aspiring to the Volvo Ocean Race and professional sailing.”