Even for an event that seems to continually reinvent itself, the 11th running of the Volvo Ocean Race (VOR) has been “unique,” to say the least, not to mention almost insanely competitive.
Things got strange early on, when two boats in the six-boat fleet were knocked out by bad weather soon after the start and Puma’s Mar Mostro was dismasted in the South Atlantic. The result: fully half of the fleet “sailed” to the Leg 1 finish in Cape Town by freighter. A few weeks later, the entire fleet took another pair of freighter rides to and from Abu Dhabi as protection against piracy in the Indian Ocean. After that, sailing to and from the Chinese city of Sanya, the fleet found itself dodging logs, fishing nets and a wind shadow to the lee of Guadalcanal, as opposed to the Southern Ocean icebergs that had posed the main threat upon leaving Cape Town in years past.
As for the competition, it would be hard to imagine a better-matched fleet of boats than these half-dozen VOR 70s. In Auckland, at the end of 5,200-mile-long Leg 4, five of the six boats finished within six hours of each other, and the delta between Telefonica and Camper Emirates Team New Zealand was a nailbiting 93 seconds.
U.S. sailing fans can check out the action firsthand May 6-20, when the fleet makes its sole North American stopover in Miami, Florida. For more on the race, including the current standings and onboard video, visit volvooceanrace.com.