Dutch sailor Bouwe Bekking will skipper a Dutch team in the 2014/15 event
Just hours after the Chinese boat Dongfeng was lifted into the water at Green Marine in Southampton, formal confirmation came of a Dutch team for the 2014/15 event. Led by Volvo veteran Bouwe Bekking, the new team will be backed by a familiar name to this race, Brunel.
The news confirmed long running speculation that a Dutch team would be taking part in the next edition of the race and takes the current total number of teams to four.
First to launch was Team SCA, the all-girl team that is currently training in Lanzarote. (The Jan issue of Yachting World, on sale 12 Dec, carries a major feature on our sailing trials aboard Team SCA‘s new boat, plus video clips here of the action.)
Next to be launched was the Chinese Team Dongfeng with Ian Walker’s Abu Dhabi and now Bouwe Bekking’s Brunel.
Meanwhile the rumour mill suggests that there could be entries from Spain, New Zealand and even mutterings of British team. Three more teams would take the fleet to seven and fit with the number of boats that Volvo are understood to have committed to build.
For Bekking, this latest challenge from one of the world’s leading nautical nations is a chance to put the record straight having twice finished runner-up in an event that is part of Dutch sailing heritage having had three winners over the event’s 40 years.
He will match the achievement of Swede Roger Nilson as the only man to have competed seven times in the race, nearly 30 years after his first attempt in 1985-86.
“A Dutch-speaking team in the Volvo Ocean Race again – we owe this to our heritage and the future sailing generations to come. But above all it’s the best sailing in the world,” said a delighted Bekking.
“Our nation is known around the world as the country of windmills, dykes, tulips, cheese, wooden clogs – and the Volvo Ocean Race. The race is just in our blood.”
Referring to his partnership with Brunel, the global project management, recruitment and consultancy company, Bekking added: “It is a great opportunity to reinforce to the world what Brunel stands for: diverse, international and dynamic. The Volvo Ocean Race is the perfect vehicle to showcase this message.”
Brunel CEO Jan Arie van Barneveld stated: “We are really happy that Brunel has again its own team and own sailing machine in the most exiting and prestigious sailing regatta in the world.”
“The formula of the race has been improved significantly: the boats are identical so it’s the teams that make the difference. It is about the quality and cooperation between the people. That is Brunel! We go for the people, the sport and the victory,” he added.
The Dutch have a glorious heritage in the race, starting when it was known as the Whitbread Round the World Race in the 1977-78 edition which was won by the legendary skipper Conny van Rietschoten on board Flyer. He triumphed again in 1981-82 and remains the only skipper to have won the Volvo Ocean Race twice.
Brunel made its debut in the 1997-98 race as BrunelSunergy and the company returned in 2005-06 in a race that was won by rival Dutch challenger, ABN AMRO ONE.
Three-time race veteran and Chairman of Sailing Holland, Gideon Messink, is delighted to see all the hard preparation work putting together the latest Dutch challenge paying off.
“Our goal is to enter a professional winning team in the Volvo Ocean Race. The Volvo Ocean 65 high-tech, one-design boat is a great improvement. It’s now all about sport and teamwork.
“We are very happy that we found the golden team to do this with miles and miles of experience in every aspect. We have one of the best sailors and skippers in the world in Bouwe Bekking and twice-Volvo Ocean Race participant and great team player Gerd-Jan Poortman already named in our crew.
“Brunel is an ambitious sponsor with its roots in sailing sports. Our organisation is based on expertise and experience in sailing, both business-wise and on the water. Last but certainly not least, we have the support of the Dutch people.”
Volvo Ocean Race CEO Knut Frostad added: “This announcement is great news all round. Brunel is a sponsor coming back to the race for the third time and feels like part of the Volvo Ocean Race family. They are here to win. They’re a fantastic sponsor.
“Bouwe is a great sailor and totally experienced skipper. He’s come close to winning many times – I’m sure he has some unfinished business with the event. This will be a real Dutch team and will create a real buzz in a country that knows the race so well. They will start training very soon – it’s all coming together.”