In 1973, the most ambitious ocean sail boat race in history was held for the first time. The race began in Portsmouth, England, circumnavigated the globe, and ended again in the United Kingdom almost ten months later. 17 yachts began the first race and sailed for more than 27000 nautical miles following trade routes used for centuries. The race was divided into only four legs making endurance on the part of the crew a deciding factor in determining the winner. Although the field contained some of the most renowned professional racers of the day, an amateur took the honors in the inaugural race.
A War of Attrition
The race is held every three years. The format requires the crews to race for up to 20 consecutive days. During the long stretches of racing the sailors are completely self-reliant and must be adept in cooking, first aid, and sailboat repair if needed. Because the race is normally more than nine months long, the competition becomes a war of attrition with nearly half of the entrants dropping out before the finish on average.
From Whitbread to Volvo
The race was originally named the “Whitbread Round the World Yacht Race” after its original sponsor, an English brewing company. For many years, the race retained the original Whitbread name until the Swedish auto manufacturer, Volvo, bought the race and changed the name. Now called the “Volvo Ocean Race“, the involvement of Volvo has ensured the race will be continued into the future.
A Quest for Greatest Sailor in the World
Whether it is called the Whitbread or the Volvo, this round the world race continues to be one of the most exciting events in sailing. A true test of endurance and skill, sailors who win this classic competition can truly proclaim themselves to be among the greatest sailors in the world.