The Volvo Ocean Race 2017-18 is well underway, and this race around the world will make its only North American Stopover in Newport, Rhode Island in May. A Race Village is created in each of the 11 Host Cities (in Europe, Africa, Asia, Australasia, South America and North America) so that fans can watch the world’s best sailors in action, and to spread the event’s message of the importance of saving our oceans.
Race fans will get an up-close look at the Volvo Ocean 65s when the fleet docks at Fort Adams in May. © Ainhoa Sanchez/Volvo Ocean Race
With its global reach and elite level competition, the Volvo Ocean Race is akin to Formula 1, although Race Village visitors have much, much better opportunities to actually meet the competitors. To learn more about the Race Villages (particularly the one in Newport, Rhode Island), we spoke with Peter Ansell, the Volvo Ocean Race Operations Director, and Kim Cooper, the Marketing Director at Sail Newport and Volvo Ocean Race Newport.
WindCheck: How many shipping containers does the Volvo Ocean Race Village require, and how is everything moved from one Host City to the next around the globe?
Peter Ansell: We are shipping approximately 250 40-foot containers around the world. These will be split between two routes. Approximately 125 will serve one half of the Stopovers, and 125 will serve the other half. We ship all these containers via a combination of regular shipping line services together with specific vessel charters, where the timelines and geographical routes dictate.
WC: How many people are required to transport and erect the Race Village, and how long is the process from roll-in to opening day?
PA: We will have approximately 50 people working to build the Race Village in just ten days. This number includes all those required to build the Volvo Pavilion and also all the Team Bases, The Boatyard, and the Volvo Ocean Race Experience elements. In some Stopovers where the shipping timelines are tight, we will only have six days to build the same volume and number of structures so in these instances we will increase the number of personnel.
WC: Is the Race Village customizable to suit the various Stopover venues?
PA: The shape and size of the Team Bases and Race Village Experience elements are designed with flexibility in mind. They can be built in a number of different orientations to make best use of the available space, which differs greatly from Stopover to Stopover.
WC: Please describe how you work with Host Cities to showcase each nation’s arts and culture in the Race Village.
PA: We encourage our Host City teams to introduce activations and elements in the Race Villages that increase and encourage visitor entertainment and engagement while reflecting the culture of that particular city or region, together with arranging their program of entertainment to include local music, dance, and food. At the previous Newport Stopover, Rhode Islanders participated in the parade and ceremonies, including bagpipers from the state’s active Irish community, Native American dancers, a Revolutionary War brigade, and a parade of youth sailors.
WC: Please tell us about how Volvo uses the Race Village to showcase their cars and trucks.
PA: The Volvo Pavilion is built in all Stopovers. This is a hi-tech, state-of-the art structure which offers a totally immersive Volvo experience inside, coupled with an engaging display of cars, trucks, buses and construction equipment outside on the interactive “Activation Deck.” Separate from the Volvo Pavilion is the Volvo Test Track. This is an eye-catching, interactive display which offers visitors the chance to experience the dynamic driving abilities of Volvo cars, tackling some extremely challenging obstacles that test the vehicles’ range of impressive abilities. Additionally, Volvo operates a fleet of Courtesy Cars which showcase their latest models, and they can be seen at the Race Villages and around the Host Cities throughout the Stopovers.
WC: Please tell us about the environmental focus of this edition, particularly with the involvement of teams such as Vestas 11th Hour Racing and Turn The Tide on Plastics.
PA: On the race’s side, sustainability is one of our event’s platforms in terms of looking at operations and everything that we do by considering how can we be more sustainable, and how can we lessen our footprint. We are organizing seven Ocean Summits throughout the race to bring attention to the issue of ocean pollution. The first Ocean Summit was held in Newport in 2015 and these new Summits will bring together sport, science, government, non-governmental organizations, and the private sector. Designed to generate discussion and create local relevance, we’re asking for a commitment from government and industry to ensure clean seas for the future.
As for the teams, they would have to speak for themselves but clearly, the message that both Vestas 11th Hour Racing and Turn the Tide on Plastics are telling is first and foremost an environmental-first message. They have the unique opportunity as teams to use their sporting platforms to educate and inform fans and race visitors about the importance of ocean health and sustainability as they travel around the world. Also, the Newport Stopover will be fully committed to running a sustainable event. In addition to composting, recycling, reducing waste and prohibiting single-use plastic bottles, all signage materials will be printed on sustainable materials.
WC: Who is Wisdom, and what’s his message?
PA: Wisdom is our race’s albatross mascot. Since their discovery by early sailors, the albatross has been an inspiration to people at sea. The ocean is their playground, as it is for the Volvo Ocean Race sailors, and Wisdom is here to excite children about the Volvo Ocean Race, give them a first fun experience of sailing, and to explain the importance of keeping the oceans clean.
The future’s so bright, I gotta wear shades! Volvo Ocean Race Academy sailors strike a pose with race mascot Wisdom in Newport.
© Ainhoa Sanchez/Volvo Ocean Race
WC: What is the Volvo Ocean Race Academy?
PA: The Academy is a way to actively involve youth in the Stopover, make them center stage, and try to engage them as future Volvo Ocean Race sailors. The Academy was introduced in the 2010-11 edition and was run over the first weekend of the Stopover. The focus will again be on teamwork, sailing, social, marine education and more. Each stopover will feature an Academy with 20 Optimists, races, speakers and more.
WC: Each Volvo Ocean Race Village is unique and amazing, but isn’t it true that the Newport Race Village in May will be the best yet?
PA: Of course all our Race Villages are fantastic, and each of them has its own unique appeal. The racers are always in for a very warm welcome in Newport, where it seems that everyone knows about the Volvo Ocean Race. The level of enthusiasm for the race amongst the population of Newport is tangible, and the knowledge of the race among the local population is impressive. It is this engagement of the public and their infectious excitement for the race that gives the Newport Race Village a very special atmosphere and makes the Newport Stopover truly memorable and uniquely special.
Make Plans to Visit the Newport Race Village!
The only North American Stopover of the Volvo Ocean Race 2017-18 will be hosted by Sail Newport, Rhode Island’s Public Sailing Center, at Fort Adams State Park in Newport, RI. The Newport Race Village opens at 4:00 pm Tuesday, May 8, 2018.
Sail Newport is hosting the Newport Stopover May 8 – 20. © Dan Nerney
The 12-day Newport Stopover is open to the public and admission is free. New attractions in the City by the Sea include an upgraded Pit Lane with cool new Team Bases; a Suppliers Corner showcasing the materials used to build the Volvo Ocean 65s; iBeacons delivering updates, special offers and information to smartphones via the VOR app; and face painting in your favorite team’s racing colors…you can bet they’ll have plenty of Vestas 11th Hour Racing blue and orange!
WindCheck: Please tell us about Volvo Ocean Race Newport’s partnerships with Sail Newport and other Rhode Island organizations such as 11th Hour Racing, Oliver Hazard Perry Rhode Island, Clean Ocean Access to educate and promote ocean stewardship.
Kim Cooper: Sail Newport is the Host for the Stopover, along with the State of Rhode Island. Sail Newport leases property from the state for their public sailing center. The State of Rhode Island and their Department of Environmental Management, along with Commerce Rhode Island, is making the entire state park available for the event.
The Tall Ship Oliver Hazard Perry’s home dock is at the Sail Newport piers.
Clean Ocean Access is a longtime partner of Sail Newport and working to keep the harbor, waters, and coastline clean. COA will take a leadership role in creating the One Ocean Exploration Zone and guide the sustainability of the Stopover.
11th Hour Racing is a project of the Schmidt Family Foundation and headquartered in Newport. 11th Hour Racing is a sustainability and education sponsor of the Stopover, active in the One Ocean Exploration Zone…and just happens to have a team in the race with partner Vestas.
WC: What will visitors find in the One Ocean Exploration Zone?
KC: The One Ocean Exploration Zone will be a showcase of interactive exhibits featuring ocean sustainability, marine science, marine life, and sailing. The exhibit is designed for visitors to explore the ocean and learn how to become ocean ambassadors to protect our greatest natural resource. Area non-profits are being recruited now, but at the last Stopover, activities included storm forecasting, measuring solar energy, planting trees, gutter boat racing, scavenger hunts, Trash Dashes, and learning activities for all ages.
Participating non-profits in 2016 included Clean Ocean Access, Aquidneck Land Trust, Audubon Society of Rhode Island, The 5 Gyres Institute, Sailors for the Sea, E2 SOL, Newport Renewable, University of Rhode Island (URI) Graduate School of Oceanography, RI Sea Grant, NOAA, URI National Oceanographic Laboratory System, Inner Space Center, IYRS School of Technology & Trades, Rose Island Lighthouse, Tall Ship Oliver Hazard Perry, US Sailing, 11th Hour Racing, Jamestown Art Center, Women’s Resource Center, Met School, and SCA.
WC: What other types of sailing will support the Volvo Ocean Race in Newport?
KC: The M32 catamaran racing will be exciting to watch during the last week of the Stopover. Almost every day there will be some sort of sailing activity including youth regattas, the Volvo Ocean Race Academy, the Veterans Warrior Sailing Regatta, demonstrations of foiling boats, and other keelboats. The legendary 12 Metres will also be out in full force, with sailing events and visitor sails.
The Volvo Ocean Race Guest Speed Experience is an opportunity to go for an unforgettable ride on an M32 catamaran. © Jen Edney/Volvo Ocean Race
WC: Will there be ‘Try Sailing’ opportunities in the Newport Race Village?
KC: Yes. Visitors will have the opportunity to experience sailing on Sail Newport’s fleet of J/22s every day of the Stopover between May 8 and May 20. All ages are welcome, and no experience is necessary. Experienced skippers will helm the boats. The Try Sailing hours will be posted on the Volvo Ocean Race Newport website closer to the event.
WC: What other family-oriented attractions and activities are you planning?
KC: In addition to Try Sailing every day and the One Ocean Exploration Zone, there will be many shoreside activities including children’s rides on the Volvo Test Track, entrance to team compounds, an official Volvo Ocean Race gear store, sponsor pavilions, and a dome theater. A full-size cutout of a Volvo Ocean 65 will be located shoreside and ready to explore, crawl below and stand on the deck.
Visitors can tour the working Boatyard, take the Musto Grinding Challenge, test drive new Volvos and watch professional drivers put them through their paces on the Volvo Test Track, and learn about the eleven other international destinations of the race around the world. Spectating events on the water will include high-speed M32 catamaran racing, the Pro-Am Race, and the In-Port Race (Saturday, May 19).
The race boats will be dockside within a few yards of the viewing pier, which will also overlook the arrivals and dock out shows. The final day of the Stopover (Sunday, May 20) is not to be missed, with the sailors’ parade, departure ceremony, boat parade and the start of Leg 9 to Cardiff, Wales. Also, Fort Adams State Park offers many other destination activities. The Fort Adams Trust offers tours of the historic fort, parade field, and secret tunnel systems.
Perhaps more than any other event in the world, the Volvo Ocean Race gets kids stoked on sailing! © Ainhoa Sanchez/Volvo Ocean Race
WC: Do you have volunteer opportunities in the Newport Race Village, and how can folks apply?
KC: Many jobs will be available including Race Village operations, help with attractions such as the VO65 half hull, the Dome Theater, the One Ocean Exploration Zone guest experience, kids’ activities, and hospitality roles. Volunteers may register at volvooceanracenewport.com.
Thank you very much Peter and Kim. See you in Newport!
Special thanks to Volvo Ocean Race Media Manager Rob Penner for facilitating this interview.