Volvo boat race by Gilles Martin-Raget/Team AlvimedIn 2018, sailing takes centre stage in Cardiff as the ultimate sailing marathon stops in the UK for the first time in over a decade. Cardiff may have hosted its fair share of watersports events, but this will be the first time for Wales to host the Volvo Ocean Race. A former industrial port, Cardiff Bay has witnessed a phoenix-like transformation from industrial heartland to cosmopolitan hub.
What is Volvo Ocean Race?
Since 1973, the Volvo Ocean Race has been the epitome of maritime adventure and a true test of human endurance and teamwork at sea. The race’s concept is simple: it’s a round-the-clock pursuit, the ultimate ocean-based marathon, pitting the sport’s best sailors against each other across the world’s toughest waters.
Over eight months, seven teams race each other around the globe, aiming to be the fastest to reach the final destination and pushing to break speed records throughout each leg of the event. It’s often described as the toughest and longest professional sporting event in the world, and there’s no doubt it’s the most difficult team challenge in sailing. It’s an epic test of strength, endurance and skill for the competitors – and many have spent decades trying to win the race.
Beating the clock - in a boat
Volvo Ocean Race 2017-18 will take the teams 45,000 nautical miles around the world, across four oceans, touching six continents and twelve landmark host cities: Alicante, Lisbon, Cape Town, Melbourne, Hong Kong, Guangzhou, Auckland, Itajaí, Newport (USA), Cardiff, Gothenburg, and The Hague.
Each team has an on board reporter who will document the relentless, round-the-clock action. And make no mistake, the competition is fierce: each team races using the same boat – a Volvo Ocean 65 – so the only way to win is to sail harder and smarter than your competitors. It’s tough, it’s gritty, and there is no mercy for the crew.
Cardiff - a sporting capital
Cardiff is no stranger to world-class sporting events. We’ve hosted the UEFA Champions League Final, Olympic football, Six Nations rugby and the British leg of the FIA World Rally Championship – not to mention a UEFA Super Cup and two Ashes Test matches. Whether you want to watch or play, the city has a compelling sports offering: world-class stadiums for rugby, football, cricket and athletics, an International Sports Village offering an Olympic size swimming pool, and an ice rink.
You can find yachting competitions, jet ski displays, stand up paddleboarding, water polo tournaments and a variety of sailing and rowing courses on the coast around the city. The area is also home to Cardiff International White Water Centre, an on demand white water rafting venue with variable river flow, so adventurers at all levels can enjoy the thrill of white water as well as the indoor wave machine and the Air Trail zip wire. And although Cardiff’s nightlife is renowned, we recommend you limit your celebrations the night before any of these activities. It can be choppy out there!
Back on dry land, Cardiff is probably best known for its national stadium. The Principality Stadium (previously known as the Millennium Stadium) is an easily accessible, 74,000 seater - the only city stadium in Europe that’s just half a mile from a central train station. It features the UK’s largest retractable roof, which takes 20 minutes to open or close, and is the second largest covered stadium in the world, after the Cowboys Stadium in Texas.
Volvo Ocean Race 2017 – 18: what to expect in Cardiff
The Cardiff Race Village will be open for two weeks in Cardiff Bay, from 27 May to 10 June. Expect a carnival-like atmosphere and a warm Welsh welcome as the teams head in to port. Fans can get a first-hand taste of the race with a new “pit lane” experience, and the chance to get up-close with the sailors and their vessels.
The In-Port Race, which takes place in Cardiff on 8 June, is always a big draw. The In-Port Races are scored separately from the ocean legs, but the series is used as a tie-breaker in the final points tally, so it’s serious business. These races are short and action packed, and held as close as possible to land. They’re a great way to witness the excitement first-hand (while staying dry on the shore with a drink in hand, perhaps?).
The racing fleet will arrive in Cardiff from Newport (Rhode Island rather than Newport in Gwent) after a gruelling eight days at sea. Back in 2006 when the race was following a similar route (heading for Portsmouth), a sailor was lost overboard and a boat sunk in separate incidents during this stage.
The transatlantic leg is known to be one of the most difficult for the sailors, and in 2018 will have the added drama of a new scoring system, rewarding the team that puts in the strongest performance.
This leg of the race is usually one of the fastest, thanks to the fierce conditions: there’s the possibility that this leg could break the 24-hour speed record. Now that’s an epic journey across open seas!
Volvo Ocean Race: facts and figures
• The first edition of the race was staged in 1973-74.
• Nineteen teams entered the first race.
• The first course took the sailors 27,000 nautical miles around the world, over four legs: Portsmouth – Cape Town – Sydney – Rio de Janeiro – Portsmouth.
• There have been 12 editions of the race to date, staged every four years at first.
• The racing cycle moved to every three years from 2008-09.
• To date, 167 boats have taken part in the 12 editions of the race.
• 43 different nationalities have been represented.
• The 2017-18 edition will feature the longest course in the history of the race: at a massive 45,000 nautical miles long.
• The previous longest racecourse for the race was 39,270 nautical miles, which was for the 2011-12 edition.
• This edition will cross four oceans and take in 12 major cities: Alicante, Lisbon, Cape Town, Melbourne, Hong Kong, Guangzhou, Auckland, Itajaí, Newport RI, Cardiff, Gothenburg and The Hague.
• The race will start on 22 October 2017 from Alicante and finish eight months later in The Hague.
• 126 women have competed in the race since 1973, including 11 in the first edition.
Volvo Ocean Race 2017 – 18: Cardiff leg dates Race Village opening:
• 27 May 2018 In-Port Race
• 8 June 2018 Leg Start
• 10 June 2018
Volvo Ocean Race official site
Volvo Ocean Race 2017 – 18 Cardiff website