Volvo Ocean Race notebook: Pit stop at The Hague; busy Spanish skipper

Steve Elling reports from the Volvo Ocean Race on a brief stopover in sailing supporting The Hague and Mapfre skipper Iker Martinez's double duty.

Spanish boat Mapfre sails during the in-port race in Alicante, Spain to begin the 2014/15 Volvo Ocean Race on Saturday. David Ramos / Getty Images / Volvo Ocean Race / October 4, 2014
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Pit stop at The Hague

It was a late addition to the itinerary, and while the Volvo Ocean Race’s stop at The Hague will be the briefest on the nine-month race, the impact could be significant. Race officials say the sailing-crazed residents of the Netherlands could turn up in seven figures when the VOR fleet sails into the harbour, where grandstands will be erected for fans. “The ambition is to get a million people,” said Knut Frostad, the race’s chief executive. The other stops on the event’s round-the-world map itinerary are measured in days and weeks. The Hague will be measured in hours. “It’s not really a stopover, but more of a pit stop,” Frostad said. The boats will be in port between 12 and 24 hours, he said, before leaving the next day for Sweden and the finish line. Frostad said The Hague was added after consulting with sponsors, who were absolutely interested. The Dutch Team Brunel also drives interest. “The reason we do it is because the Netherlands is probably our biggest area of interest and engagement,” Frostad said. Boats will leave The Hague in spaced time intervals based on where they finished the day before.

40,557 for in-port race

With perfect weather and moderate winds, the turnout for the in-port race on Saturday was so good, it was difficult to manoeuvre through the onshore race village. Fans watched from along the pier and the beach-front areas, too. In the dock areas, fans lined up a half-dozen deep to get views and snap photos of the boats. Race officials estimated that 40,557 were in attendance, a number that should be eclipsed when the regatta heads out for the first leg, to South Africa, next Saturday. Frostad, given the attendance figure, said: “That is a good day of sailing.”

Double duty

Iker Martinez, skipper of the Spanish entry, Mapfre, is an Olympic gold medallist who is still involved in that aspect of the sport. When he was offered the job of running the Spanish crew, he had to navigate through some congested water, occupationally. “I told them, ‘Look, this is what I can offer’,” he said. “It was some days on one boat, some days on the other.” The Spanish boat signed up in June as the sixth of the seven Volvo entries. Martinez says the Volvo event now occupies 100 per cent of his attention.

Flotsam and jetsam

Volvo officials have an agreement with Spanish officials to start the race in Alicante in 2017/18, but no contracts have been signed beyond that point. Race headquarters are located in the port city. ... The race winners receive no prize money. ... Race rookie Charlie Enright, the American skipper of the Alicante team who won the in-port race on Saturday, turned 30 last week. Only one member of the Alvimedica team, a joint US/Turkey venture, is age 40 or older, making it the youngest crew on the water. By comparison, the oldest skipper in the fleet, Brunel’s veteran Dutchman Bouwe Bekking, is 51 and has logged six trips around the world in the Volvo event previously. ... The all-female Swedish boat, SCA, logged its first win yesterday, in the first of two pro-am events in the Alicante harbour, where teams raced with guests aboard.

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