Published on Saturday, 27th April 2019 - 10:43AM04/27/2019
NEWPORT — Sail Newport is preparing a bid to become a host city for The Ocean Race in 2022, after successfully hosting the Volvo Ocean Race in 2015 and 2018. The race would begin in late 2021.
Volvo sold the event to new owners who are re-launching the around-the-world sailing race first known as the Whitbread Round the World Race from 1973 to 1997 and then the Volvo Ocean Race from 2001 to 2018.
“Newport has been the most successful North American stopover for the event in terms of attendance and economic return,” said Brad Read, Sail Newport’s executive director. “We are also the most passionate sailing community in the Northeast, in my opinion.”
Many of the key players in the Volvo event remain involved in the new Ocean Race, he said.
“There has been a lot of good communication back and forth between them and us,” Read said. “They are confident of our ability to execute a major sailing event.”
The Sail Newport team, and its partners that include the state Department of Environmental Management, other agencies of state government and city government, and other nonprofit groups, have questions that still must be answered during the new host city procurement process, Read said.
For example, The Ocean Race will start in 2021 from Alicante, Spain, but with two classes of boats racing: the high-tech, foiling IMOCA 60s and the one-design VO65 fleet that was used in the 2015 and 2018 races. Both boats are monohulls, unlike the catamarans used in recent America’s Cup races.
The two Ocean Race fleets would arrive at the different host ports at different times, Read said, meaning there would be two different race finishes. For the past two races, the leg arriving in Newport started from Brazil, for which the IMOCA 60 fleet would be at least one or two days faster than the VO65s, he said.
“What does that mean for the organizers of host city events?” Read asked. For the past two Volvo events, the teams had home–base portable buildings at Fort Adams State Park and Volvo had put up a pavilion as well.
“Will it be the same for The Ocean Race?” Read asked.
The Volvo 65-foot boats were all “one-design,” meaning one boat was exactly the same as all the others and all were built by the same firms. They had crews of up to 11 people.
The new IMOCA 60s would be built within parameters, but built separately and with variations meant to give a competitive edge to the teams. That puts construction of the boats back at the forefront of technology and gets different designers, engineers, boatbuilders and sailmakers all involved in the race again, according to the new owners. The IMOCA boats will have crews of five or six, with extremely compact quarters below deck, Read said.
“There are nine new IMOCA 60s in build across the world and we know several of them are being prepared as projects for our race,” said Executive Director Richard Mason in a written statement. “And on the other side, we already have six of the eight VO65s that are essentially spoken for by campaigns planning to be on the start line in 2021.”
Some of those IMOCAs are likely to be raced in the 2020 Vendée Globe, a single-handed nonstop yacht race around the world without assistance, Read said. There would be further modifications to IMOCAs participating in The Ocean Race, he said.
The Vendée Globe was founded by Philippe Jeantot in 1989, and since 1992 has taken place every four years. It is named after the Département of Vendée, in France, where the race starts and ends.
The 2021-22 edition of The Ocean Race will feature up to nine stopover ports, fewer than the 11 stopovers featured in the 2018 Volvo Ocean Race, Read said.
There is no set deadline yet for submitting bids to become a host city, but the full race route is scheduled to be announced before the end of the summer, he said.
As the Sail Newport staff prepares its bid, it has a series of accomplishments to look back on, including making the event environmentally sustainable with the help of Sail Newport’s partners in the community and the state, Read said.
The model of environmental measures developed during the America’s Cup World Series, hosted by Sail Newport in 2012, and then refined during the 2015 and 2018 Volvo events has been imitated at sailing competitions and events around the world, he said.
The Newport events put the focus on ocean health by addressing the impacts of plastic pollution. The Ocean Race is adopting this message.
“With a commitment to put sustainability at its heart, the next edition of the race will develop a roadmap to inspire action and create tangible outcomes,” the race organizers said in a written statement.