At the Volvo Ocean Race Village in Gothenburg, it's windy and sad, but when the sun looks out to illuminate the colourful Volvo Ocean 65 yachts that have covered almost 40,000 nautical miles in the past 9 months, a smile appears. Then the gaze falls on the usual sponsor's pavilions, on the sail containers, on flags flying in the Swedish wind and a huge number of visitors.
Behind one of the most exciting and lengthy regattas in the world, the victory in which does not bring a cash prize, and for the skipper, perhaps, is the analogue of the conquest of Everest.
The route and main points on the Volvo Ocean Race path are laid out in such a way as to fascinate connoisseurs of the seas and to extend the boundaries of the exclusive yachting event, showing the inhabitants of the cities hosting the regatta the excitement and beauty of sailing races.
The total length of the route is usually about 40,000 nautical miles. In the 2014/15 season there were 11 port races, 7 international teams with yachtsmen from 19 countries took part in the regatta. Among them there were many Englishmen, Australians, Americans, French, Spanish, Dutch, even Chinese, but, for example, only one Swede (Martin Strömberg, Dongfeng Race).
The start of the regatta was given in Alicante. The route passed through Cape Town, Abu Dhabi, Sanya, Auckland, Itajai, Newport, Lisbon, Lorient, The Hague and ended in Gothenburg. Formally, this regatta is not a round-the-world race - the circle is not closed, but it can be recognized as such, as the teams have passed all continents and all oceans.
The Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing team has been in the lead since the first crossing. In the next stages, the Brunel Sailing, Dongfeng Race and MAPFRE teams competed for podium spots. The final transfer from Lorient to Gothenburg took place with a 24-hour stop in The Hague, where the Dutch Brunel received such a boost from her fans that she finished first and deservedly took second place. Here we must pay tribute to the perseverance and persistence of the team's skipper and veteran Bowie Becking, who took part in the Volvo Ocean Race for the seventh time.
The third on the podium was the Chinese team Dongfeng Race led by French skipper Charles Codrellier, who was a member of the winning crew last season - Groupama team led by Frank Camma. Dongfeng grew up literally in front of their eyes: from stage to stage, Chinese yachtsmen not only handled sails and tackles better, but also learned English, which was not well spoken by everyone at the beginning of the regatta. Their passion for victory and willpower impressed Charles Codrellier. By the end of the regatta, the Frenchman had even learned a few expressions in Chinese. There were several young Chinese in the team, they replaced each other at different passages, there were two guys on board all the time. For each of them, participation in the Volvo Ocean Race was a dream that became a reality.
The Vestas Wind team raided the reef at night during the second crossing. This incident took her out of the game for almost six months. Having put a lot of effort into the restoration, or better said, building the boat again, they joined the fleet in Lisbon. Quickly showing that the oceanic wind conditions in the Bay of Biscay were ideal for them, they gallantly missed the women's team and came in second. However, after Lorian, where the tactics won, Vestas Wind again came down to the end of the standings. Because of the failure in the Indian Ocean team Chris Nicholson finished the race in last place, but has big plans for 2017.
A bright impression was the participation of a fully female SCA crew, not only because of the pink color of their boat, but also because of the success on the water: the girls managed to finish first in the eighth stage from Lisbon to Lorient, as well as to win 2 port races.
The girls claim that the victory at one of the stages and a place on the podium brought them Princess Victoria of Sweden, who was present on the yacht for the second time during this regatta. Another team that was honoured to receive a special royalty was the MAPFRE team. At her wheel during the final port race was King Juan Corlos I of Spain.
All good things come to an end sometime. In Gothenburg, the final day ended with a port race in very low wind conditions. Ian Walker was already confident in his victory and as if he had deliberately let his rival teams fight each other. He was in the tail of the fleet throughout the race. Only thanks to the error Team Vestas Wind, who started first and eventually chose the wrong sign, finished right in front of them with six.
In the series of port competitions, as well as in the offshore stages, the Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing declared its unqualified victory. In second place is Bowie Becking with Brunel Sailing. The third place on the podium was Team SCA.
At the final press conference, the skippers talked about what it was like to race in multinational crews, as well as noted the youth of individual participants. According to the conditions of this season, at least two crews must be younger than thirty in each crew. According to Charles Codrellier, skipper of the Dongfeng Race, the most valuable thing for him was to see the joyous faces of his «green» Chinese wards after winning the third stage, which ended in their native China.
The skippers called the passage of Cape Horn, known for its severe temperament, the brightest event of the regatta. Many had to conquer it for the first time, so the voyage was accompanied by merry initiation»ceremonies«.
Sam Davis, skipper of the SCA Women's Team, however, noted that she prefers to work with women as it allows to find a better common language in the team.
However, other skippers (men) do not seem to mind being on the team not only of the opposite sex, but also younger athletes. But in this case we have to consider safety issues: even despite 21st century technologies, yachts hit the reefs, lose rudders and masts, and in critical situations we want to have experienced friends in the crew.
Many skippers and team sponsors have talked about repeated participation in the regatta, but let's not guess. Ian Walker, who has been going to this victory for the last 8 years, will definitely take a well-deserved vacation to be with his family. However, we all know very well that yachtsmen will not sit on the shore for long and we are likely to hear the names of Volvo Ocean Race participants in new projects soon.
The Russians have participated in Volvo Ocean Race twice. In 1989/90 the legendary «Fazisi»was launched, and in 2008/2009 the Russian team «Kosatka» led by Oleg Zherebtsov took part in the regatta. This season there is no Russian team or Russian names in the lists of crews. However, despite the absence of Russian crews among the participants, interest in the regatta does not diminish.
On the final day of the regatta, immediately after the awarding ceremony in the racing village, Russian fans presented MAPFRE skipper Iker Martinez with a commemorative book and a traditional white»bottle«.