Golden Goose

I guess it’s ‘Chapeau!’ to the organisers of The Ocean Race – a race that I had completely and utterly forgotten about – for announcing a route and a firm intention to get a start going sometime in either December 2022 or January 2023.

We all know it as ‘The Whitbread’ whilst those a few years younger fondly call it ‘The Volvo” whilst the younger ones have a much longer sentence that ends with…”why would you want to do that?”

©Barry Pickthall / PPL

Well, let me take the kids aside for a moment and lecture them on the romance of Cornielius van Richoten’s ‘Flyer’ sailing down the back of Southern Ocean rollers and gracing the front cover of every yachting magazine in the world.

Let me tell you of the time when we waited patiently in the Solent for the return of Steinlager 2 and New Zealand Endeavour and watched them thundering into view from the Western approaches, match racing almost to the finish.

Can I also mention the cultural significance of Tracey Edwards smashing glass ceilings with Maiden and the equally culturally significant Rothmans with its chain-smoking, rock-star Lawrie Smith at the wheel or can I entice with the electricity around the Lymington boat yards when the likes of Assa Abloy with its see-thru deck came along?

Okay, how about Ian Walker mentally and physically crumbling before our eyes such was the sheer, intense pressure of dragging that Abu Dhabi donkey onto the podium and scoring a brilliant, outstanding win…

©Matt Knighton / Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing

The Ocean Race, The Whitbread, The Volvo, The Whatever, is the very essence of what man’s endeavour on the seas is all about. Back in the day it was everything. Nothing was bigger as it captured the world’s attention whilst not having to try very hard. It’s a different landscape today. Things have changed. Boats have got faster and more extreme. The human endeavour is in the single-handed and in monohulls that fly.

The Vendee Globe has eclipsed The Ocean Race at the pinnacle and there’s any number of multihull attempts that have captured the headlines and the public’s imagination but at its core, I could argue if I could be bothered, that it still has a place in the sport. I’d be kidding myself though. The IMOCA’s will simply use it as a tuning run for the Vendee and as a useful sponsorship platform. Quite how many brand spanking new VO65’s (sounds like a shampoo) will show up is anyone’s guess.

© Nick Rains; Cordaiy Photo Library Ltd./CORBIS

If they do, then there’s one heck of a race planned all centred and anchored around a brutal 30 day Southern Ocean leg from Cape Town to Brazil and missing out stops in China and Auckland. That’s a big call – remember just how much effort went in to accommodating the Chinese last time but for Auckland, it’s another hammer-blow on the sporting landscape, and in my opinion the death of the golden goose for this race, that should be effectively used to force the America’s Cup Match to be sailed in home waters.

With China, the organisers can gloss over with the Covid card but it’s highly significant – the drawbridge is up on that country and nice-to-haves like ocean races or even an AC entry simply aren’t going to be happening anytime soon. It’s a closed shop now.

©Andrew Sassoli-Walker

But that Southern Ocean blast will be something that will have the pros animated. There will be many a crew down in Palma sailing the TP52s this week who will be very happy for the pay day if they can squeeze onto one of the entries. The market for pinnacle rail-meat in water-shifters keeps on getting harder so a few months of gainful employment and the chance to put a monster Southern Ocean leg on the CV is compelling whilst aligning with ocean causes, as all the boats will do, enhances the personal brand. Good for them.

I wish the race well and very much hope that a razzmatazz can be built around it – I hope that it’s not hope against hope. It won’t be easy in the current climate but with the IMOCA fleet absolutely on fire at the moment with new-builds and an announcement flow to die for around the Vendee Globe, they could well be the saviour of the format. I can’t get away from thinking that it runs the risk of being just a warm-up for the main event and a chance for the single-handed skippers to get data on their sail-plans, a few navigation clues and a stretch of the legs to attain vital qualifying miles. It’s still newsworthy, I suppose.

Far more newsworthy as we speak however is the action at the aforementioned TP52 Worlds…and guess who’s top of the pile overnight? It is almost getting embarrassing but our favourite Aussie, Tom Slingsby, is once again this season showing us why he’s the greatest sailor on the planet at the moment, leading the fleet in one of the tightest regattas of the year.

A couple of third places yesterday sees Slingsby’s South African Phoenix Team with strategist Cameron Dunn just a squeak ahead of the rather impressive afterguard of Jordi Calafat and John Kostecki on Platoon. It’s light, shifty and oscillating down in autumnal Palma as Tom brilliantly put it:

“My nerves are gone. It was crazy racing out there. Any tactician who says they know what’s going on out there would be lying. It’s just insane racing, it’s crazy, it’s very hard to predict, we’re just riding the rollercoaster. And so I am really happy with two thirds today on a day like that.

The wind was changing all the time. You are trying to tack on the shift but sometimes there was a persistent shift, sometimes there wasn’t, sometimes it was oscillating, it’s just so hard to know what the wind was doing out there. I don’t know how many times today I said to Cam Dunn, ‘I have no idea what’s going to happen here.’ But it was just one of those days where you had to sail in your own breeze and get round the course quickly. In these conditions it really helps having a strategist. Having a good set of eye to give me input on the course is invaluable. And so yes we’re in the mix for the world title and the overall title. The points are so close heading into tomorrow, it’s anyone’s game but we’re happy to be in the hunt. Looking forward. There is a good chance tomorrow is the final day so we have to approach it that way.”

Can he do it? It’s hard to bet against Tom this year…amazing, truly amazing if he does. Genius at work.

12 thoughts on “Golden Goose

  1. If someone doesn’t know about The Ocean Race, they don’t know what they’re missing out on! I know I said yesterday that I feel like part of the reason I like SailGP is that they have a lot of things in common with TOR presentation-wise, but if I had to run down the list of the big events, I would say (and this may be controversial) that The Ocean Race has the best fanbase to be in.

    Online and at the Newport stopover, for nine months in 2017-18, I just found so many enthusiastic, kind, like-minded people of all levels of sailing knowledge, from dozens and dozens of counties, some who were first-time-watchers like me, some who had watched every edition since 1973. And I can only remember a very small handful of bad experiences out of what must have been thousands of people I interacted with in that time. In the VOR (as it was then) fanbase, everyone really seemed to be having uninterrupted fun, there was always so much to talk about, and the educational program made everything clear to understand no matter what level of background knowledge you had.

    I know the management knows better than I do, but hopefully for stopovers that will be going on more than two years from now things will change in the intervening time and it might be safe to go back to China and New Zealand by 2023 after all.

    Long Live The Ocean Race!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Magnus,
    As long as the Ardern-led Government rules New Zealand there will be no Major International Sporting Event in the Country. That is my Prediction!


    1. As I recall, there was a fairly significant one back in March… you might have heard of it…


      1. That’s true KaiYves BUT since then….

        – Both Auckland International Tennis Tournaments cancelled for 2022!

        – SailGP Event 2022 cancelled in Christchurch!

        – Auckland Stopover of “The Ocean Race” 2023 scrubbed!

        Also, you do realize back in March there was no Delta Variant of COVID!


      2. They’re on course to have their population 90% vaccinated by this time next month, we’ll see how the current outbreak is managed, but if they can contain that and hit that target, it could be the safest place in the world again by the New Year.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Cornelis van Rietschoten, Magnus! I sailed aboard the first Flyer (albeit on the slowest Fastnet on record, and across the pond with his son, Jan.)


      1. Wind blown up here, but well! Yes, I have reconnected, not that I consciously disconnected; just drifted away after the AC. Catching up now and frankly astonished at how bad things have been in my absence!


      2. I was Laser sailing this morning in fresh to frightening!! Great fun…

        Good to have you back Adrian. Yes the AC is still in hibernation but just ready to explode…


  4. Hey Magnus, I don’t know if memorabilia is your thing, but you do seem to have seen and done a lot and know a lot of experts— it surprises me that for all of the times I’ve seen it mentioned in books and online, I’ve never actually seen a photo or scan of the infamous Steinlager ad making fun of oneAustralia’s sinking. Are there actual copies of it anywhere?


    1. Oh thank goodness, with frustrations and disappointments aplenty in the inshore world, some IMOCA action in the open sea sounds like just what the doctor ordered!


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