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Off and Sailing

The Volvo Ocean Race is on its round-the-world blitz again

photo by  Ainhoa Sanchez, Volvo Ocean Race

The Volvo Ocean Race 2014-’15 began October 11 and finishes next June in Gothenburg, Sweden, by way of the ends of the earth.
    By then, the seven boats will have sailed 38,739 miles from Alicante, Spain, visiting 11 ports on five continents.
    Newport, Rhode Island, their seventh port, brings them closest to us, early next May.
    The seven entries come from around the world — United Arab Emirates, China, Turkey and four from Europe — but not from the Americas.
    However, the Turkish boat Alvimedica features an American skipper, Charlie Enright — out of Bristol, Rhode Island — and a fired-up supporting cast of young U.S. sailors.
     Enright is living his dream, conceived in 2006 with a university buddy, team general manager and member Mark Towill.
    “We met during the trials for the Morning Light project. We both considered that project to be the beginning of our dream, which is the Volvo Ocean Race,” Enright writes.
    This race keeps the best sailors in the world coming back for more thrills and punishment. Veteran skippers Bouwe Bekking, Ian Walker and Chris Nicholson are back at the helms, each trying to win his first Volvo. Crew lists read like a who’s-who of international sailing champs.
     But the crew to watch — and my personal favorite — are the women on the Sweden’s SCA. For the first time in over 10 years, there is an all-women crew, including Wisconsin native Sally Barkow. Barkow competed in the Beijing Olympic Games, was twice named the U.S. Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year and has raced J-boats on the Chesapeake Bay for many years. The women have already proved their strength and prowess by beating the men through the Straits of Gibraltar and out into the Atlantic Ocean by 21 miles on the opening leg.
    This year, all seven boats are the same. The new one-design boat for the next two editions of the Volvo Ocean Race is the brainchild of Farr Yacht Design in Annapolis, with a consortium of four boatyards building the boats: Green Marine in the United Kingdom, Decision in Switzerland, Multiplast in France and Persico in Italy.
    The world’s leading sail maker, North Sails, also with an Annapolis pedigree, is outfitting the new Volvo Ocean 65 one-design class.
     The game board has finally been leveled, and we can expect some serious close-order sailing where skill — rather than the best boat and sails — will, for the first time, determine the winner.
    What is it like to race on a 65-foot-long boat, getting bounced around the oceans of the world for almost a year? That is the journey I intend to write about for the next nine months in my fourth time covering the Volvo Ocean Race.

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To be part of the race, check out the Virtual VOR at: Racing my virtual boat Cave Dawg, I am one of 70,000 competitors.