12 Nov 2011

Volvo Ocean Race sets off from Alicante

So last Saturday the magnificent sailboats participating in the Volvo Ocean Race set sail from Alicante. Their nine month trip around the world started out on a gloriously warm autumn day with magnificent winds, deep blue waters and a very scary sky. Watching them zipping over the waves in Alicante Bay was mesmerising, and something of an adrenaline rush!

I've been meaning to write about the Volvo Ocean Race for a month now... but October was an incredibly busy month what with extra work hours and helping out with the Volvo's environmental education project (remember that beach clean I told you about?). Damn! I hate being late to the party! But this was a big deal in Alicante and I'm not going to let it disappear in the haze of post drafts waiting to happen. Better late than never, right?

Volvo Ocean Race trophy, winners inscribed on the bars
First things first! What is the Volvo Ocean Race? For those not involved in the world of sailing and regattas (which would be me! Never heard about this until it started in Alicante), it's a round-the-world yacht race (used to be called the Whitbread Round the World Race) that takes place every three years, typically departing in from Europe in the Fall (Oct-Nov) and then heading round the globe with about 8-9 stopovers until the final destination about nine months later. The 11-member crew spend up to 3 weeks on-board between each stopover, working round-the-clock in 4h shifts. Talk about intense! I got to see inside one of the sailboats (was asked not to post pictures of the interior, sorry!) and there really isn't much space to do anything down there other than sleep (in hanging cots that can be tilted closer to the hull if the boat is leaning too far to one side), work the navigation post or prepare a feeze-dried meal. Even the toilet is just there for show, typically they just use the bow of the boat, as in the sailing days gone by of the 19th century... More on the history of the race on Wikipedia, or the official Volvo website.

Volvo Ocean Race Village in Alicante
This is the second (of three) year the race has started in Alicante. In fact the area where the Race Village is held was dubbed the "Zona Volvo" three years ago once it had been fixed up for the race. The Race Village is a collection of buildings, tents, attractions etc. that house the offices of the Volvo Race organisers, of the different participating teams, of all the sponsors (who set up stores and games related to sailing for the public). All located around the pier where the sailboats are docked.

Volvo Ocean Race Village with the sailboats moored in front

It's a hub of constant activity, with contests and games and concerts and shows going on all at once. Including a certain plastic bubble that one gets into and tries to walk on water... remember me laughing with you about that? ;o) There was also a small sailing school for kids:

and free paddleboard lessons on the beach! (I missed out! tried to go twice but just my luck: poring down rain in a city where it almost never rains!)

Almost every day for a month the boats were out in the Bay for a training session, and there was an in-port race (which I missed, having gone to Madrid that weekend) a week before the big send-off.
Start of "Leg 0", a training race to Mallorca and back

Let me introduce you to the participants.
  • Team Telefonica (I had to start with the Spaniards! w/ a Spanish skipper and Sp, Aus, Bras, GBR crew)):
on board the Telefonica
I almost look like I know what I'm doing! :p
  • Team Camper (Spanish/Kiwi ship with an Aussie skipper w/ crew from Sp, NZ and South Africa)
Spain + New Zealand? Great team! :o)
  • Team Abu Dhabi - the Azzam! (British skipper, very international crew!)

  • Team Groupama (French skipper and mostly French team) and Team Puma - Mar Mostro (US Skipper, international team):

  • Team Sanya (China's first entry! Kiwi skipper, mostly kiwi team + 1 China, 1 BEL):

Here are a few shots from the start of Leg 1 as they cris-cross the Bay of Alicante.

 They're taken either from the beach we usually swim at, just in front of the final buoy (#3) as the boats swept around, or from the window of my parents' apartment.

Here they are zipping across the bay:

the rounding the corner coming closer to us:

Team Camper was the first around buoy 3, damn impressive speeds!

Then they headed back across the bay towards the harbour,

and finally up along the opposite coast until the passed between the Cabo de Santa Pola and Tabarca and then continued down south towards Gibraltar and the Atlantic.

Here are a few shots taken from the beach:

Goregous, aren't they? :o)

Currently only 4 of the 6 boats are out in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean (near the Cape Verde Islands), the Sanya and Abu Dhabi had to retire from this leg due to technical difficulties on the first day (Abu Dhabi broke a mast and the Sanya suffered hull damage, they're currently hoping the boats will get down to Cape Town -by freighter- in time to do the repairs and test everything before the start of Leg 2)

You really need to see these guys in action... I don't have video from the race day, but I did take this on a "training race" day (Leg 0) from a walkway overlooking the bay:


  1. What beautiful and colorful boats! And a very well illustrated (with pictures) post, Cris! Kudos to you...

  2. Those boats were gorgeous! And seeing them sailing across the bay pretty much every day for a month? Magical! :o)

  3. Wow! How beautiful, what an amazing day you got to have!


Hey there! Yes you! The quiet one in the back... I'd love it if you hung out for a bit and shared your thoughts!

I might stop by your place with an answer, but I'm more likely to reply right here so click on "email follow up comments" if you'd like to see what I and others have to say and come continue the conversation! ;o)