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BRAVERY, TRAGEDY, VICTORY
the heritage and the history of the Volvo ocean race,
formerly the Whitbread round the World race
by MARY SuE McCARthY
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The race tells an inspiring story of dedicated individuals and teams who,
this new technology has also
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CE with passion, energy and endurance, climb the “Mount Everest of sailing”.
completely altered the concept of ocean
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The Volvo Ocean Race also is one of the very few truly global sports events
racing. In the past, skippers and navigators
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had little idea of where their rivals might
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SH – taking place on four continents and involving multi-national, multi-
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be as they ploughed day-in day-out
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cultural teams and support teams.
through the vast oceans. During the first
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race, communication between the fleet
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t is unlikely that Colonel Bill Whitbread, of the brewing and organisers was based on a weekly position report to a local
family, and Admiral otto steiner, of the royal naval sailing coast guard, but from 1993-94, satellite equipment enabled
Association, ever envisaged the magnitude of the event they the yachts to file their position every six hours. this meant that
conceived “over a pint” of beer thirty-six years ago. although boats were not necessarily in sight of each other,
Although staging a “round the world yacht race” had been rival skippers were able to follow, and track, every move when
contemplated throughout the twentieth century, it needed necessary. In effect, this vast ocean race, where yacht crews can
the combined financial support and organisational expertise race for days on end for thousands of miles and not once see
which Whitbread and the rnsA were able to put together. the another competitor, has become, in this sense, more like a fiercely
first Whitbread round the World race, which got underway in fought dinghy race performed on any local stretch of water.
september 1973, featured yachts which were little different from
those cruising around the Mediterranean at that time. since then,
A Corinthian Adventure 1973-74
the ocean racing yacht has developed into a high-tech state-of- When the first gun was fired on 8th september 1973, seventeen
the-art speed machine, with little comfort spared for the crew boats of sizes ranging from 80’ to 32’ from seven countries
but with leading-edge technology. crossed the start line just east of portsmouth harbour in the UK,
MAY 2009 YACHTWORLD.COM 21
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