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The Volvo Ocean Race

VOR – From conception to reality – Turn the Tide on Plastic

The Volvo Ocean Race (set to depart from Alicante, Spain 22 October) is one of the greatest challenges in professional sport. The 2017-18 edition will take the teams 45,000 nautical miles around the world, across four oceans, touching six continents and 12 landmark Host Cities.

Britain’s Dee Caffari, is set to skipper ‘ Turn the Tide on Plastic ‘ a mixed gender, youth-focused team with a strong sustainability message. She will be the only female skipper in this edition of the race and is leading the only campaign in Volvo Ocean Race history to have an equal amount of men and women onboard.

It is said, by the sailors themselves, that anyone who takes part in this race is ‘a bit crazy’. There is no prize, the only reward is seeing your name etched in the Volvo Ocean Race Trophy and for some, this is enough to keep the obsession to win alive for decades.

The question on most people’s minds, however, is does Caffari’s young, relatively inexperienced team have what it takes to compete with some of the best offshore sailors in the world? With seven under-30s in her final squad and the most nationalities out of any of the teams (nine) – she has put together one of the most interesting campaigns in the race’s history.

Caffari’s ambition of becoming a skipper in Volvo Ocean Race finally became a reality back in June this year. There was a time, post 2014-15 edition of the race, Caffari was desperate to be involved in a team in any way, shape or form. Despite having extensive experience (from the previous all-female entry in 2014-15 ‘Team SCA’) and the advantage of the mixed gender crew rule, the process of the teams recruiting crew was a slow one. As the months went by, the British Skipper became more and more convinced her time wouldn’t come.

When the concept of a team representing the United Nations Environment’s ‘Clean Seas’ campaign was initially discussed, one of the key issues was finding partners with the same core ambitions to back the campaign. This is where Principal Sustainability Partner, the Mirpuri Foundation came in. By becoming Founding Partner of the team alongside the Ocean Family Foundation, these two companies allowed this progressive campaign to move from conception to reality. Joined together by the core ambition to ‘Turn the Tide on Plastic’, the Volvo Ocean Race campaign was born.

Alongside these partners, Sky has stepped up its Ocean Rescue campaign and also partnered with the team. As part of the campaign the team will use on-board data gathering equipment to measure water quality and composition, as well as micro-plastics in some of the world’s remotest oceans.

Turn the Tide on Plastic - 2017-18 Volvo Ocean Race © Sam Greenfield / Volvo Ocean Race

Turn the Tide on Plastic – 2017-18 Volvo Ocean Race © Sam Greenfield / Volvo Ocean Race

“We are a team that wants to make a difference. I believe we have created a campaign that will allow people to connect on a personal level to this project. Whether it is sustainability, gender equality or diversity and inclusion, our aim is to use the platform of this race to connect with people,’ says Caffari. ‘Our message is a strong one. We may not start out as race favourites but we will grow and we will improve and we certainly won’t give up.”

An ex-teacher, Caffari has surprised people by opting for talented in-shore sailors such as Bleddyn Mon (GBR) from the America’s Cup and Annalise Murphy (IRE), Olympic silver medalist.

‘If you looked at the young sailors on my team and tried to count the offshore miles, it would look very poor on paper but make no mistake I have picked talented sailors who know how to make a boat go fast. My team are hungry, every leg will be a learning curve but it would be foolish to write us off too soon.’

With undeniable pressure to be competitive, Caffari and her team will certainly be the ones to watch when the race kicks off tomorrow at 1400 CEST from Alicante, Spain.

You can watch the start of the Volvo Ocean Race online at www.volvooceanrace.com

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