Volvo Ocean Race CEO refutes some readers' criticisms and accepts others


I’ve had this response from Knut Frostad (pictured), head of the Volvo Ocean Race, in answer to my, and others’, assorted comments. There are quite a few of these in various postings, so here is a link to my aggregated blog .

It’s a great reply. It is long but I urge you to read it all because are some important points, among others, about the growth of interest in sailing in new territories and, with that, a migration of the overall audience from its traditional strongholds. And you have to admire the lightness with which he has made robust yet lambswool-lined rebuttals.

‘I read your blog today with interest! Comments and views on the Volvo Ocean Race is what we live on every day, in blogs, from sailors, sponsors, media and last but not least the audience.

‘Having been part of this race for more than 15 years, it has been an amazing experience this time around to engage with new audiences around the world.
Not only in India and China but also people who has never before been interested in sailing, who have learned to sail through our internet game and new generations who where not even born when Whitbread had its glory days.

‘At the same time I realise that we may have lost some of the passion from our traditional audience, in particular in the UK. And this I do take seriously. Spain and the Netherlands have more people following the race than ever.

‘Many of your and Eero’s comments are valid, and in particular the need to reduce the cost and add flavour to the race I agree a hundred percent to. The cost element is critical for yacht racing as a whole. And those who are closely involved in the present race knows that we have an ambitious project running to achieve that in the next round.

‘When it comes to the legacy and boats I do not agree with you. If Peter Blake was with us today and raced his new Steinlager in the Volvo Ocean Race, his boat would look like the boats we have. Steinlager was the pinnacle of sailing technology those days as the Volvo Open 70s are the same today. That has always been the philosophy of the race all the way back to the Whitbreads.

‘And Peter Blake was my big sailing hero as Iker Martinez is a hero to many young sailing fans in Spain today. But I agree with you that the focus should be more on the personalities than the gear, and it takes time and effort to build those names, especially as there are so many competing for attention out there today.

‘As well we are in a very different world where there are not only a lot more races and names but a lot more competing for everyone’s attention every day. In the 1997-98 Whitbread, where I took part myself, sailing was for the first time presented on the world wide web. We had hardly any competition. In Scandinavia many learned how to use the internet through following the race, today the internet is something else.

‘Let me clarify two very important questions you raise. First, Volvo is very much focused on developing the Volvo Ocean Race as a sport and a sailing race, and in fact they are very open to both improve and change the race the whole way.

‘I am sure many of the sailors who attended our seminar in Alicante at the start where we outlined some of our plans for the future will agree. That is the core of our focus, and the main reason for why I decided to take this job. Secondly Volvo has already announced their support of the next race which will start in 2011-12, and their commitment to continue to support the race is definite.

In the mean time we have a very exiting race on our hands, very much in the Southern Ocean, and we will during the stopover in Rio present our results from coverage so far which shows a great improvement on a global basis, much thanks to the media crew members who has enabled us to provide broadcasters, internet and mobile phones with a lot more content than ever before even in many different languages.

The race has to work for both the sailors, the sponsors and the media. One does not outrule the other – in fact they are all depending on each other as much as the sailors depend on each other onboard.’

Do continue to email me if you have something you would like add to the debate. We have had some really interesting topics spinning off all these subjects.