Volvo organisation moves forward towards 2011

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Before the eight boats in the current Volvo Race had completed their first 24 hours at sea, the great and good who could finance or manage entries in the next race in 2011 were gathering in the start port of Alicante to be encouraged both to race and add their ideas.

The race ceo, Knut Frostad, brought in late to replace a departing Glenn Bourke, was keen to create both certainty and continuity when he persuaded the president of Volvo AB, Leif Johansson, to announce in the same week as heavy redundancies because of a downturn in car and other sales, a reassurance that the race had a secure future.

Given the demise of events like the Admiral's Cup and the legal war in the America's Cup, this was an opportunity not to be missed at a time when marketing budgets across all sports are under unusually intense scrutiny.

As the bid process to host stopovers at ports around the world begins next month, and the Spanish are convinced that Alicante will be a contender to host the start again next time, the organisation for the next event may be moving as quickly as the 70-foot yachts.

Which was not very quickly yesterday, as the eight coped with light winds turning the south-east corner of Spain to head through the Straits of Gibraltar and into the Atlantic.

There, they should pick up considerable speed and there are high hopes that, during the course of the 37,000-mile, 10-leg race, at least one will break the 600 miles in a day barrier.

One man absent from the first leg is Oleg Zherebtsov, the St. Petersburg supermarket boss backing Team Russia, who returned home on the death of his mother.

Under another cloud was the crew of Ericsson 3, which is carrying a total four-point penalty for the inshore races and scoring gates on the first leg after its keel fin was declared non-compliant with the rules and the jury refused to reopen their hearing. A new fin, being made in Italy, may be ready to ship to Cape Town for the second leg to Kochi in south-west India.

They were neck and neck with their team-mates on Ericsson 4, skippered by Torben Grael. Showing well was the Chinese-backed Irish entry Green Dragon, with Ian Walker at the helm, battling it out with the Ken Read and the American entry Puma for third.