Dutch Team AkzoNobel become first Volvo Ocean Race entry, with Simeon Tienpont to skipper
The first team has announced their participation in the Volvo Ocean Race, which sets off in the autumn of 2017. Team AkzoNobel is the first to chalk – or rather, paint – their name up on the entry list for the race, 15 months before the start.
The multinational paints and coatings company AkzoNobel might not be a household name, but its brands are, including Dulux, Hammerite and Polycel. They also have a vast marine market share, with brands including International, Awlgrip, and Nautical. New CEO Mark Turner has commented on several occasions that he hopes to re-engage with the race’s traditional audience of sailing fans, as well as continuing to widen its sporting and commerical appeal to potential new markets, and the first announced team seems to tick many of these boxes.
The Dutch-owned company will sponsor a Dutch-flagged team, skippered by Simeon Tienpont. Tienpont debuted in the race onboard ABN Amro Two in 2005, and competed in the final two legs of the last race onboard the relaunched Team Vestas Wind.
This will be the first time Tienpont has skippered a Volvo entry, having stepped out of the round the world racing arena for several race cycles to move into America’s Cup racing. He has been part of two America’s Cup winning teams – Oracle Team USA in the last edition, and BMW Oracle Racing in the previous Cup – and was most recently working with SoftBank Team Japan.
He commented: “I’m an engineer and at that point the America’s Cup was the ultimate playing ground for technique and innovation. When I came back to the Volvo Ocean Race last edition for a couple of legs, I saw that working in the America’s Cup had equipped me with so much experience – in working with big teams but also having an eye for detail and marketing.
“I feel very lucky that I had the Cup years, especially with such great teams, but it’s even more exciting to get back to the Volvo Ocean Race. It’s been said many times by some huge sailors, but this race has something special about it, something incredible which draws you back in. It’s a very true statement.”
The next edition of the Volvo Ocean Race also sees the fleet take on a course many have heralded as a return to its roots – with almost triple the amount of Southern Ocean miles compared to recent editions, thanks largely to the withdrawal of Abu Dhabi after winning the last event, which frees up the route from a trip north to fit in a Middle Eastern stopover.
Instead the 2017-18 Volvo Ocean Race will set off on the traditional Europe to Cape Town first Atlantic stages, before a 12,000-mile epic from Cape Town to Hong Kong, taking the boats through the Southern Ocean, Tasman Sea and along the eastern coast of Australia, before contending with tropical cyclones and monsoons as they track north towards Hong Kong.
After restarting from a commercially expedient extra stopover in Guangzhou, China, Leg 5 takes the fleet south once again to Auckland. From New Zealand they plunge down to the Roaring Forties for more Southern Ocean endurance, rounding Cape Horn on their way to Itajai, Brazil. Then it’s up to Newport, Rhode Island, back across the Atlantic into Cardiff, and then a round-Europe hop from Gothenburg to finish in The Hague.
Tienpont commented: “I love it. I seriously love it. I think this route is what the Volvo Ocean Race is all about. The hardcore sailors and the fans are delighted with the way the route looks now. They’re all very physical, tough legs, and I understand it’s the longest race ever – around 45,000 nm. All the big Capes are in it. It’s going to be unbelievably challenging and exciting, I couldn’t wish for a better race.”