Cost cutting measures announced for Volvo race

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The Independent Online

Fast boats, less gear, sometimes less people, and less opportunity to buy success was the recipe for the world’s best round the world racers today as a raft of measures to cut costs, but no overall budget cap, was announced by Volvo Ocean Race chief executive Knut Frostad.

For the next event, starting again in Spain in 2011, the number of sails which can be made at all has been considerably reduced and is down to 17 for the race itself. No two-boat campaigns, or even two-boat testing, will be allowed. There will be plenty of grumbles from syndicate bosses with fat cheque books.

Although plans to reduce the total racing crew from 10 to nine have been dropped, the number of under 30s has been raised from two to three, putting an even bigger premium on experience. And no extras will be allowed for the inshore races which will be staged at every stopover. An announcement about the course is targeted for next March.

An all-woman crew would be allowed three extra and the mandatory media reporter will be allowed to perform some extra minor duties like running the water maker or charging the batteries.

But the area in which he or she works will be full of sails, as stacking them on deck will no longer be allowed.

At least the high-risk job of bowman will be made easier at times as the sails he had to try and change while waves tried to wash him off the deck will now often be on roll-up furlers. The old headfoils into which they used to be fed have been exchanged for even older hank system, though with new technology..

Frostad wants to keep the competition more open by preventing a big budget from being the be all and end all, and he wants to make it easy to modify boats from the last race to go round again and be competitive. He also wants to try and halve a top spend of €30m a boat and still give a team with a lower budget a chance of winning.

The Yacht Club Italia has already bought Ericsson 3 from the winning team last time and the winning boat, Ericsson 4, is expected to be sold, possibly to a French team. There are two of them thought to be gearing up and a second Italian entry is being canvassed by the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda with Kiwi former race winner Grant Dalton leading the charge.

A new 600-mile prologue will be introduced, though it will not count towards a points system modified to give five points per place for the legs and doubled for intermediate gates.

“We feel we have acted responsibly at a difficult economic time,” said Frostad. “We set the bar really high from the start, but we have come to terms with the fact that this is as much as we could possibly achieve in the time we had.”

Having started the day with fears of a storm, racing at the TP52 world championship in Palma de Mallorca was restricted to just one seven-miler in light conditions. The runaway winner was the King of Spain’s Bribon, and, as the previous leader, the Swedish boat Artemis was a dismal eighth, the propelled the Spanish to the top and fourth was enough to lift the defending champion, the American Terry Hutchinson in Quantum, to second.

Britain’s Cristabella was sixth on the day, seventh overall, while the newcomer Tony Langley, deciding whether to launch his Weapon of Choice into next year’s Audi MedCup circuit or continue campaigning in the Solent, was ninth.