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Rome. An Italian challenger for the 2017 Volvo Ocean Race?

Report on a promising conference at the Aniene Rowing Club.

Rome – The Volvo Ocean Race was the talk of the conference held this morning at the Aniene Rowing Club in Rome. Top names from the world of sailing and Italian sports attended: host Giovanni Malagò, president of CONI [Italian Olympic Committee] and the Aniene Rowing Club; Carlo Croce, president of the Italian Yacht Club, Federvela [Italian Sailing Federation] and ISAF [International Sailing Federation]; and Riccardo Bonadeo, president of the Costa Smeralda Yacht Club. Volvo Ocean Race CEO Knut Frostrad talked about the new edition of the race and announced the soon-to-be-confirmed sixth team with a “Spanish flavour”. He also expressed his wholehearted support for the direct participation of an Italian team in the 2017 Volvo Ocean Race.The main advocate of this endeavour was Mr. Croce, who spoke in no uncertain terms about taking advantage the synergies among the Aniene Club, the Costa Smeralda YC and the Italian YC in order to mount a solid challenge. Mr. Bonadeo, on his part, stressed that they had been working hard on the project, “which was already much more than just a dream”. The Costa Smeralda YC Commodore went on to say: “After our experience in the 2001 Volvo Ocean Race with Ferragamo of Amer Sports, we want to go back to the most enthralling and selective event in the world of sailing, and, for me personally, a much more coveted award than the new America’s Cup. We must succeed.”

The best of Italian technology, which has already had a strong presence in the Volvo Ocean Race, was represented at the Aniene event: Marcello Persico of Persico Marine, builder of the new Volvo Ocean 65 hulls and representing the international consortium formed by Persico Marine, Multiplast, Decision and Green Marine; Gianpaolo Spera of Harken Italy, maker of deck equipment; Gianni Cariboni of Cariboni, producer of the VO54 canting keel oleodynamic systems; and Luigi Maffioli of Gottifredi & Maffioli, maker of the running rigging of the new ocean one-design yacht. Rounding out the list of companies represented at the event was Alvimedica, which recently merged with CID, a specialist in cardiovascular devices headquartered in the Region of Piedmont, Italy. CID’s involvement is almost certain to guarantee the presence of an Italian yachtsman on board (there are two candidates for the job, one of which is Alberto Bolzan).An Italian challenge was strongly hoped for by Mr. Croce, who pointed out that the previous attempt by Giovanni Soldini reached only half of the budget needed (12 million euros), and by Mr. Frostad, who confirmed that the project had been launched and there was a good chance of success. “We have to call on young Italian yachtsmen. There are many of them out there and they are quite well qualified. We have to proceed with a solid work group.”

“We are taking the first steps, and early in the upcoming month of June we are going to open our technical centre in La Spezia for Mini 650 ocean sailing,” Mr. Croce said. “It may be too early to talk of an all-Italian team yet, but all the makings are out there. We need to bring in new blood, young Olympic-class faces, young people with a an open mind for whom we have high hopes.”Mr. Frostad presented the 2014-2015 Volvo Ocean Race, which will start in Alicante, Spain, this coming 4 October. “The Volvo Ocean Race is the only sports event that spans almost 9 months crossing all the oceans and touching all the continents of the planet,” commented the Norwegian manager, a former Olympic athlete and veteran of four Volvo Ocean Races, first as a yachtsman and then as skipper. “It is a 100% commercial event, which offers guaranteed returns to its sponsors and aims at fascinating millions of spectators around the world through the intensive use of new technologies. A live reality show – truly real this time –, because everything we will show you live from the six racing yachts will be authentic and is meant to stir passions and emotions, also thanks to the use of innovative on-board reporters.” This is an event that Italy cannot afford to miss, provided that the needed teamwork spirit, which has all too often been lacking in the past, can be achieved this time. In the inviting halls of Aniene this morning there was optimism in the air.Michele Crisci, president of Volvo Car Italia, introduced the new XC60 and spoke about how important the race was for the communication strategy of the Chinese-Swedish car manufacturer. As for previous editions of the Volvo Ocean Race, the Volvo Car Group is going to celebrate the start of the 2014-2015 edition of the race by launching a series of special cars inspired by the world of sailing. The fifth generation Volvo Ocean Race Edition models – including the Volvo V40, V40 Cross Country, V60 and XC60 models – were presented at the Geneva Motor Show.

“This is an extraordinary opportunity to put the value of Italian entrepreneurs on display,” Mr. Crisci pointed out. “As our country is experiencing a period that is far from easy, these are examples we should follow and talk about. It is of great importance to us that a prestigious international event such as the Volvo Ocean Race, with its huge media coverage, have Italian participation, and not only in the competitive sense. I want to add that the place chosen for this meeting, the Aniene Rowing Club, embodies, as very few other places in Italy can, the idea of prestige and premiumness that Volvo wants to reflect in its automobiles.”

The Volvo Ocean Race Edition 2014-2015 models are available in four colours: Ocean Blue II, Bright Silver, Black Sapphire and Crystal White. The exclusive seven-spoke “Portunus” wheels come in 17-inch (V40 and V40 Cross Country) and 18-inch (V60 and XC60) versions. The Volvo Ocean Race logo identifying these special models is displayed on the footboard moulding and front fenders, as well as in the start-up sequence appearing on the infotainment screen.

We note that the following teams are entered in the 2014-2015 Volvo Ocean Race: Team SCA (SWE), Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing (EAU), Team Brunel (NED), Team Alvimedica (TUR-USA) and Team Dongfeng (CHN). The sixth team will be announced soon.

Michele Tognozzi .