2 Dutch VOR bids alive, but uphill slogs
AMSTERDAM _ Two bids for Dutch boats in the 2014-15 Volvo Ocean Race continue apace but face a tightening deadline and are hampered by Europe’s lackluster economy. Team Heiner’s campaign calls fund-raising an uphill slog. The one led by VOR veteran Bouwe Bekking says sponsors love the benefits the round-the-world offers but are “very, very careful” about parting with something like €15 million. Neither camp is throwing in the towel.
Roy Heiner (below), a Dutch competitive sailor and Olympic medalist, tells Zeilen Magazine his Team Heiner has “twice tried to mount a VOR campaign. This time it has got to work! I think we’re closer than ever.” He says an international sponsor with a foothold in the Netherlands is ready to put up €8 million “but does not want to go it alone. So we need additional funding.”
To date, 3 teams have said they will join the next VOR that leaves Alicante, Spain Oct. 4, 2014: Team Dongfeng (China), Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing and Sweden’s all-female Team SCA The 9-leg, 39,379nm race will last 9 months and end in Gothenburg, Sweden. Organizers count on about 8 teams and hope that by Dec. 31, half will have signed up. The VOR will be run in a one-design VOR 65 now being built by 4 yards: Green Marine (UK), Decision (CH), Multiplast (F) and Persico (I). The shift to identical boats is designed to end the massive duplication in developing cutting-edge racing yachts.
Bekking, heads a campaign together with fellow VOR veterans Gerd-Jan Poortman and Gideon Messink. He tells Y&C the one-design “is the best decision Volvo has made. It’s much cheaper. You can start later. Everybody has the same sails, boat and gear. Sponsors see the benefits of that.”
Europe’s economic slump “has, of course, had an impact on (sponsoring) decision,” adds Bekking (right). “We are still plugging away. It’s not like a company is investing in a bag of peanuts. We are talking serious money. Very difficult decisions must be made. That takes time, lots of time. Most candidate sponsors see the huge benefits the race has to offer and the massive return-on-investment. But they still have to invest the money. Companies are very, very careful. It’s never a 1-person decision. There are directors. If only one is against, the odds reduce dramatically.”
Heiner agrees. “We meet very enthusiastic people,” he tells Zeilen magazine. “For some (sponsoring a VOR campaign) is like a boy’s dream. But it’s not working very well in the Netherlands. I’m often told to go back to ABN-AMRO Bank, Brunel and Delta Lloyd because they sponsored past Dutch campaigns. It’s an uphill slog. But I think we are closer than ever.” Heiner is reaching out to foreign funding, including in his native South Africa.
The one-design formula will keep costs to around €15 million. Campaigns can spread that out across 2 VOR races _ a far cry from past campaigns that spent anything north of €30 million per race. Speaking to Zeilen magazine, VOR Chief Operating Officer Tom Touber also touched on these VOR issues:
Piracy: “Our experts say right now we can sail without any problems from Cape Town to Abu Dhabi. Putting the fleet once again on a transport ship…is the worst scenario. But if the safety of the participants demands it, we’ll do it again. One option under consideration: have naval vessels shadow the boats. We’ll decide that in January.”
VOR65: “The biggest saving is not in the construction but in the service center. In previous races, shore crews consisted of 12 to 28 people. The Boat Yard (a 20x60m service center for all teams) will handle all maintenance during the race. In the past, teams spent 85% of their budget on ‘performance’ costs _ spending designed to increase speed _ and 15% on repairs. We do not want the boats to be made faster than they are. It’s not allowed. We want the best sailing team to win … All boats are identical, down to the last screw.”