Handicapping the Fleet
Handicapping the Fleet
The final two confirmed entries remain officially under wraps, but word is they're both from Spain. These entries were a condition of the deal that brought Volvo Ocean Race headquarters to Alicante, Spain, in 2009. At a shed in Valencia, Construction has begun on a new Juan K design, and Telefonica Azul (Blue) has been training under the direction of Iker Martinez. The assumption is that one new boat and T-Blue will be the two Spanish entries. I'm guessing the lack of an official statement has to do with the lack of committed sponsors. Telecommunications giant Telefonica, which sponsored two boats in the last race and Movistar in 2005-'06, is reluctant to provide full funding, so syndicate head Pedro Campos has been looking for another title sponsor for the second boat.
Green Dragon: Thanks to the success of the Galway stopover and the its third-place finish in the final transatlantic leg of the last Volvo, the Irish team has decided to give the race another shot. The team has already secured 2.5 million Euros in funding and hired Matt Humphries as skipper.
In a cost-saving effort, the team has sent the old Green Dragon to a shed in Galway for winter repairs. In the last race, the Reichel Pugh design had a fast hull, but it also had the lightest keel bulb in the fleet. Work this winter will involve strengthening and removing weight from the interior structure to allow for a maximum-weight bulb. Crew selection is underway, and the team hopes to have funding to begin training and building sails in early 2011. Of all the possible entries, this team has the best shot to make it to the starting line. Still, Green Dragon will need to secure enough funding to be competitive all the way around the world.
Italia 70: The Italians made a big splash in 2009 by hirind skipper Giovanni Soldini, best known for rescuing fellow Around Alone competitor Isabelle Autissier from the Southern Ocean in 1999. With financial backing from Fiat’s John Elkann, the team purchased Ericsson 3 and planned to race it again around the world. Since then, the team has gone rather dormant. While rumors of sponsorship from Fiat and Pirelli have been floating around, the team's absence from events like the Rolex Middle Sea Race is a foreboding sign. They do, however, own a fast boat, and a quick injection of cash could get them to the starting line.
Brazil: Lars Grael announced an all-Brazilian team in late 2008. Since then, we've heard little else. I'd be surprised to see this team make the start.
Others: I've heard rumors of teams from Sweden and Russia, but time is running out. While good boats like il Mostro and Ericsson 4 will be available in early 2011, sailing talent may not be. Meanwhile, established teams are designing and testing sails. With the window closing fast, I'm betting on on seven teams to make the starting line in Alicante. While the fleet may be small, it's shaping up to be the most competitive in the history of the Volvo Ocean Race. Life at the Extreme, you can’t get here soon enough!