What has a car brand with a reputation for safety got to do with challenging the ocean? Almost three weeks since the third leg of the world’s toughest endurance event started, DriveME takes a look at the Volvo event and its legendary episode in Abu Dhabi.
The bored masses in Abu Dhabi have been reveling in the recent indulgence international musicians, performers and sportsmen have been treating them to. And on the weekend of 13th January, they were teeming at the Marina, to watch a sensational sporting episode that was an entirely new experience to them.
The Volvo Ocean Race is the hardest test of endurance and the longest professional sporting event in the world. It is a nine-month marathon of the seas, passing through four oceans (Atlantic, Pacific, Indian and Southern Oceans) and involving all seven continents either by presence or participation. The Formula One is yet to reach Africa! Modern day Thor Dayals, the competitors risk their lives every day in the most extreme conditions of any sailing event. The race covers the greatest distance of any professional sailing event, 39,270 nautical miles in total. It boasts a heritage of excellence stretching back to the first race in 1973 – 74, when Sayula II won what was then called the Whitbread Round the World Race.
The race is a test of character in every respect. The crew – and their families of course – have to tackle the emotional storms even as they have to live apart for as long as 9 months!
The sailboats can reach a throw-you-off-the-rails speed of 42 knots. Built mostly of carbon fibre, as light as wood and as strong as steel, the Volvo Open 70 is the fastest monohull sailboat in the world. Seven cameras in each boat relay the challenges and turbulence at sea, live to 72 countries. The Volvo Ocean Race has 300 million Euros at stake as a sporting event, but surprisingly none of it goes into prize money!
“Prize money puts a price on the victory; this is invaluable. And the will (power) could be made to feel small by the money!”
As Volvo officials explain, the winner of the Volvo Ocean Race gains something far more precious than money. The whole race indeed is done for something money can’t buy – the fulfillment of character!
What’s Volvo got to do with Ocean Racing?
Thrown about by unruly waves, and challenged by the stormy days and nights, enchanted by beautiful sunsets, the race is all about living on the edge while respecting all that is required to maintain safety and discipline. After being known for absolute safety parameters in a car, Volvo, in its reincarnated image purports to identify with all that in spirit. By initiating the world’s toughest and relentlessly exciting endurance sport, Volvo wants the world to know that, after all, “safety can be very exciting!”
The Abu Dhabi stopover
The race started in Alicante on the 29th of October last year and will conclude in Galway on the 7th of July, 2012. 4 million people had turned up at various Volvo Ocean Race villages in the last race. This time around, the crowd that had turned up at the Abu Dhabi Marina seemed to vouch for it, having fun at the various stalls and activities at the Destination Village and watching the unearthly challenge that had reached their shores for the first time.
The joy of the local crowd knew no bounds when their very own boat Azzam, won the Abu Dhabi in-port race as well as the Abu Dhabi – Sharjah segment of the 3rd leg of the race to Sanya. The crew was later flown from Sharjah and was offloaded at an undisclosed location in the Indian Ocean, far from the threats of pirates.
As of today, Telefonica leads the race by a huge margin, with Groupama closing in on the stern! As for Team Sanya, they are charging towards the finish line and a warm homecoming at Sanya. The team have asked locals to get the beers on ice ready for their arrival!