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10 Facts About The Volvo Ocean Race

  • by: Conor McKeon
  • On: 13, Mar 2018
4 min read

Everything You Need To Know About The Volvo Ocean Race:

10. The Race Is Over 40 Years Old

Originally named the Whitbread Round the World race, the Volvo Ocean Race first started from Portsmouth, UK on September 8th,1973. A total of 17 boats carrying 167 crew set sail on Leg 1 to Cape Town in the first edition of the Volvo Ocean Race. 


9. Over Two Thousand Sailors Have Taken Part

Since the first race over 40 years ago:

  • 167 boats and 2030 sailors have taken part in 12 editions of the race

  • 29 boats took part in the 1981-82 race – the largest fleet ever

  • 43 different nationalities have been represented by sailing crew

  • 467 crew from the UK have taken part in the race – the highest number from any nation around the world.


8. Five Sailors Have Lost Their Lives 

Despite being one of the safest yacht races in the world with a run of over 40 years, five sailors have lost their lives at sea during the Volvo Ocean Race: 

  • Paul Waterhouse/Tauranga/Leg 2 1973-74

  • Dominique Guillet/33 Export/Leg 2 1973-74

  • Bernie Hosking/Great Britain II/Leg 3 1973-74

  • Tony Philips/Creighton's Naturally/Leg 2 1989-90

  • Hans Horrevoets/ABN AMRO TWO/Leg 7 2005-06

With the Clipper Round the World Race recently seeing its third fatality in under three years, yacht racing safety is currently a major talking point for the Marine industry.


7. Navigation Used To Be A Challenge

In 1973-74, before GPS technology, navigation was performed by dead reckoning and sextant. The race course followed the route of the old square riggers of the 19th century.


6. Sailing Used To Be More Comfortable

In the earlier days of the race, the boats were much more comfortable: fridges were packed with fresh meat and many Volvo Ocean Race teams included a full-time cook. With the years, the traditional commodities have evolved into shared bunks, desalination units, GPS, freeze-dried food and protein bars.


5. Cornelis Van Rietschoten Had A Heart Attack And Didn't Stop Racing

The oldest winning skipper was Cornelis Van Rietschoten NED, who was 55 when he skippered Flyer to a win in 1981-82. A determined and highly skilled sailor, he secretly suffered a heart attack on board during the race but remained in the competition, not disclosing his illness until after he reached the finish line. Cornelis is also the only skipper to have won the Whitbread Round the World Race twice.


4. Three Sailors Have Raced Seven Times

Three sailors have competed in the race seven times:  

  • Stuart Bannatyne NZL – who has been on a winning boat three times

  • Bouwe Bekking NED – who has been a skipper three times

  • Roger Nilson SWE – who has also been a skipper on three occasions


3. The Race Breaks Records

Other Volvo Ocean Race record-breakers include the longest racecourse so far - 39,270 nautical miles in 2011-12 – and the longest leg in race history: Leg 5 Quingdao, China to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, which at 12,300 nm took the fleet over 40 days to complete. 


2. There Was An All-Female Team

In the 1989-90 race, skipper Tracy Edwards GBR and her crew of Maiden became the first all-female team to compete in the race. Team SCA is the first all-female team to win a leg of the race since Tracy Edwards’ crew won the two Southern Ocean legs in their division.

Read more about the best female sailors from around the world.


1. New Zealand Has Record-Breaking Sailors

Three sailors, coincidentally all from New Zealand, have sailed on a winning boat three times: Stuart Bannatyne, Mark Christensen and Brad Jackson.

  • Mark Christensen NZL is the only sailor in the history of the race to have won three consecutive editions.

  • Pierre Fehlmann SUI is the only sailor to skipper a boat five times in a row, from 1977-78 up to 1993-94.

  • Roger Nilson has sailed 200,000nm in his life – the distance from the Earth to the Moon

Follow the latest leg of the Volvo Ocean Race.

Read the 5 Best Moments of the Volvo Ocean Race.

Find out what 2018 has in store for the international Marine Industry.

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