ALICANTE, Spain (Reuters) - Team AkzoNobel confirmed Simeon Tienpont as skipper for the Volvo Ocean Race hours before the start on Sunday after the Dutchman got approval for a series of crew changes as they prepared for the 83,000 km race around the world.
The team, backed by the Dutch paint company, announced last week that Tienpont had been replaced as skipper after a contract dispute between the sponsor and the campaign’s management company.
Following an arbitration process, Tienpont was reinstated, and on Sunday was able to lead the team out from the dock in Alicante to take the start line on the first leg of the race.
“It’s been a turbulent week,” Tienpont said as the team were presented to the crowd. ‘But the support we’ve had from the public has been amazing. It’s really given us strength.”
Tienpont crossed the start line without the three most experienced members of his squad – Brad Jackson, Joca Signorini and Jules Salter – after all three elected not to sail on Leg 1 following the skipper’s return.
Racing against time, Tienpont scratched together a mixed crew of eight sailors – six men and two women – with the necessary qualifications for Leg 1 – a 2,700 km sprint to the first port of call in Lisbon, Portugal.
“This crew complies with all the required seamanship, safety and medical qualifications set out in our rules,” Race Director Phil Lawrence told Reuters after approving the crew two hours before the start. “It also meets our requirements for two under-30 sailors so they are good to go.”
AkzoNobel were one of seven teams starting the race along with Spanish team Mapfre, Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag from Hong Kong, the Danish/United States entry of Vestas 11th Hour Racing, Team Brunel of the Netherlands, China’s Dongfeng and Turn the Tide on Plastic, racing under a United Nations flag.
Dongfeng, skippered by Frenchman Charles Caudrelier, led the teams out of Alicante after enjoying the best of some wild conditions over the hour-long in-shore course that marked the start of the leg.
Britain’s Dee Caffari of Turn the Tide on Plastic is the only female skipper but, in a first for the race, every one of the teams features at least one woman. That follows a change to the rules for this edition that gives mixed teams the right to take more sailors on board than all-male crews.
From Alicante, the race route takes in Lisbon (Portugal), Cape Town (South Africa), Melbourne (Australia), Hong Kong, Guangzhou (China), Auckland (New Zealand), Itajai (Brazil), Newport, Rhode Island (United States), Cardiff (United Kingdom) and Gothenburg (Sweden) before finishing in The Hague (Netherlands) at the end of June 2018.
Editing by Ken Ferris