Mark Turner is a visionary in sailing whose ideas could have taken the race quickly into exciting new territory - but those plans required a big investment
Losing Mark Turner is a blow to the future credibility of the Volvo Ocean Race. He was brought in to shake the event up – and he did.
His vision cut through the bureaucracy of what is quite a large organisation and sought to join up the dots of sailing, creating an overlap between the VOR and the Vendée Globe, between male and female sailing, between crewed and solo racing, Olympic and offshore.
His plans even included Volvo Ocean Race academies in some countries to help younger sailors step up from an Olympic campaign. It acknowledged that the VOR had been toppled from its place at the apex of ocean sailing, and needed (like the Vendée) closer insight into the human drama of the sailors taking part.
So cohesive were Turner’s ideas that they attracted a new cohort of elite sailors such as America’s Cup winners Blair Tuke and Peter Burling, and have played to the ideas Emirates Team New Zealand are working on for the next America’s Cup.
After he joined, Mark Turner brought in talented people and trusted lieutenants from his OC days, including head of PR Lou Newlands, commercial manager Susie Walker, race director Phil Lawrence, and his wife, Anne-Cécile, who is the race’s sustainability programme leader. Deciding to leave will have been a huge decision.
The VOR looked like a perfect fit for Turner. It would have taken bold investment, but that could have taken the race quickly into exciting new territory while also aligning it with other active areas of sailing sponsorship. The board has flunked it.