With less than one year until the race leaves Alicante in September, 2015, people are getting eager for the latest developments with the Volvo Ocean Race.
It's common knowledge that three teams are already announced for the 2014-15 Volvo Ocean Race. But early this week a European cast of VOR bosses and department heads sat down with officials from all 10 host ports for a three day workshop. I managed to get a seat for the press conference that Volvo Ocean Race CEO Knut Frostad kicked off with an energetic keynote address.
The question on everybody's mind? Where are the rest of the teams? Who will they be? And how many will be on the line?
Without naming names, Frostad told a room full of media that two boats are in what he calls the 'contract closing' stage.
“We are very confident about them,” he said.
Beyond the two alleged 'sure things', Frostad mentioned an additional two boats in final negotiations, and another three engaged in serious discussions.
It's hard to stare at a power point and listen to news of anonymous hopefuls without a hint of skepticism, but Frostad drove it home with one key point:
"We are confident enough about being seven [boats] that we are building the seventh boat and it’s more than half finished," he said.
The “ready to sail” cost of a Volvo Ocean 65 is around 4.5 million euros. These aren't petty investments.
And get this:
“Since we started the on the 2014-15 race, 174 teams have come to us and said they want to do the race. I would probably say that around 120 of them are what we call dreamers because they’d love to do the race but they don’t really understand what it takes to get to the start line.”
Frostad and his team have been supporting around 20 serious hopeful programs on a full time basis.
It's the first time in the race's history that Volvo Ocean Race's in-house commercial department has worked hand in hand with each potential program, overseeing every contract, every negotiation and every pitch. Why?
Frostad explained that in today’s economic climate, sponsors are more scrutinizing than ever.
“They’re really trying to understand, ‘are we getting the return for the value?’—And much more carefully than they ever did before. And what they realize is that not only the team that is bringing the value for them. In fact, the race is bringing a lot of the value.”
Frostad is one of those no-nonsense, easy-on-the-eyes and easy-to-get along with kind-of-CEOs that you can't help but rally behind. He's made team development his full time mission since the last race ended, 16 months ago. The man spends half his life in the air, traveling an average of 15,000 air miles per week. When I was at VOR HQ for the month last spring I'd see his car in the parking lot every single Saturday afternoon.
If Knut says there's going to be seven teams, I wouldn't be surprise to see eight.