Volvo Ocean Race – Should Lawyers be banned and Multihulls
Knut Frostad, the outgoing CEO of the Volvo Ocean Race (VOR), was a dual Olympian who then sailed in four VORs.
He took over the reins of the event from Glenn Bourke less than eight months before the 2008-09 race and during the 2011-2012 race he forecast the need to change the boats from open class to one design and pushed that process to fruition for the 2014-2015 race.
He talked to Sail-World in a wide ranging interview. Parts One, Two and Three you can read from the links below.
Knut continues ‘Looking back to 2008-2009 the culture in the race and the culture in professional sailing wasn’t right.
It was a culture where, if you were in a professional sailing team, one of your team members on land was a lawyer. And I think that is something that just should not be even allowed.
I started at the beginning of March, 2008, and the start was that year, so I came in quite late. All I could really do was to try to smooth things.
One of my lowest points in that race was probably when Ericsson 3 got penalised at Alicante before the race started. Because of keel-gate as we called it.
I remember I walked home that night, and I said to myself ‘This is so wrong.
It wasn’t the disqualification was wrong, it was just like how we could end up there.
That it’s even possible to be disqualified before you start an event – it shouldn’t happen.
I think I should have grabbed that by the horns a bit quicker and worked much harder on changing the culture quicker.
That said, I think in the last race, 2014-2015, we really had a culture which very much reminded me of when I did my first race in 1994.
Where teams were – it’s not about being friends, but it’s about the community that you work in. Where teams and the race organizers work really close together.
The teams support a common goal, which is to make this race a great experience for everyone. And I think one of the things we did in this race was, we brought back what we call the crew party in every stopover.
Everyone came. All the sailors, the sponsors. It was a kind of internal party.
What they had in the 80’s and 90’s there was an enormous amount of alcohol involved. That has changed but the crew party reminds everyone “Hey guys, we – let’s make it great together.
Rather than thinking, ‘Hey guys, we’re in this race to win it for whatever price it takes. And I’m a lawyer, and you are a lawyer, and I’m going to fight you right now.
The sportsmanship now back in the race is positive in the end. Looking back, I see I could’ve pushed that agenda harder.
On One Design and Future boats Knut commented ‘We had a major strategy analysis over the race in 2008-2009 and one of the conclusions was the need to go one design.
At one time I thought that we should have done it for 2011-2012 but perhaps the world would not have been ready for it. I think we would have had so much resistance.
‘Because when we finally did it, at least when the sailors and the teams went back to their sponsors – the sponsors kind of nodded and said, ‘Oh this makes a lot of sense.
Because the rest of the world is crashing, and we are cutting costs in our company left, right and centre.
So it makes a lot of sense that you also become more sustainable and think differently then you’ve done in the past.
So the timing and mood was right for One Design for 2014-2015
Looking ahead for the Volvo 65 replacement after the next race, it’s not a challenge to decide what boat. The challenge is how you change from one fleet to another.
Well we expect to build some more boats now for the next race. Then let’s say, if you have a fleet of nine boats or 10 boats or whatever – and then you’ve got to move from that fleet to a new fleet of the same size in one race cycle?
That is the challenge. Obviously we had a fantastic help and support from Volvo when we went to the Volvo Ocean 65. I don’t think anyone else in the sailing world could have done what we did.
Because you need financial resources to be able to start building boats. Designing them, and building them – and you need to take some risks.
Because if you don’t take risks, the only way you can do it is that you have a whole fleet of owners and teams ready before you even have to start building boats.
And time wise, that’s going to always be a challenge.
‘Think about the America’s 45 class. It’s not because everybody decided that that was a great class and everyone should race them.
‘They only exist because Larry Ellison decided to start building them. And that’s fantastic, and that is – you have that resource.
So the transition is always going to be the challenge.
You can’t get much smaller than we are today. So if you assume that the size of the boat will be similar, whether it’s a mono or multi hull – it would probably be longer and bigger.
Because a multi hull needs to be bigger than 60, 65 to be a working platform for offshore racing.
It takes about 30,000 hours to build a Volvo 65, so post the next race it will take quite a while to build the fleet.
That is the main factor. If you have solved all that, then the decision is going to be easy.
My vision for the future, is that when we get to the time when that decision is going to be made, that we have made the race so sustainable, that we have so many team sponsors and owners who are able to sit around the table – because they’re all committed to the future of the race too.
Right now I think we are on a good track. We are having really good discussions at the moment with the majority of the teams from the last race, which is something we have never been in a position to do in the past.
I must say, I am not confident, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the Volvo Ocean Race after the next one is in multihulls.
Neither would we, but there are a few other obstacles in the way, as Knut has said on numerous occasions, the only way to learn how to sail in the Southern Ocean is to sail in the Southern Ocean and from that point it will be interesting to see who first foils around Cape Horn.
In the final segment of this interview series, Knut talks about the VOR, the environment and what impacts the race can have on the wider marine industry.
by Rob Kothe