Whether it’s by air, sea or land, DHL impacted the success of the 2011-2012 Volvo Ocean Race thus far in more ways than one. The 11th edition of the race, set to conclude on July 7 in Galway, Ireland, is a mammoth of an operation that requires strenuous preparation by sailors, vessel builders, event organizers, race sponsors and participating sea ports and airports. Designed for six professional teams of 11 crew members in state-of-the-art, 70-foot racing yachts, the race covers 39,270 nautical miles—the greatest distance of any professional sailing event—and crosses four oceans and five continents. And DHL, global logistics provider and the official logistics sponsor of the race, has stood by 24/7 through the extremes of it all to transport equipment and emergency spare parts to ensure the six elite teams can continue in their pursuit for victory.
From past to present
The nine-month race, which started in Alicante, Spain in October 2011, brings a number of firsts, including the first sole Chinese entry, Team Sanya, and the first United Arab Emirates entrant, Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing (other teams include the Groupama sailing team; PUMA Ocean Racing by BERG; CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand; and Team Telefónica). Built on the spirit of fearless men who lived on the sea more than a century ago, today’s Volvo Ocean Race serves as a hybrid of world-class sport and live adventure.
“The race began as something of a Corinthian adventure,” explained Kevin Fylan, Editor In Charge, Volvo Ocean Race S.L.U. “Back in 1973, very few people had sailed all the way around the world and it took a remarkable spirit of adventure to undertake such an enterprise. Now, of course, the race is a fully professional operation featuring elite sailors—many of them with world championship, Olympics and America’s Cup experience. The early editions were as much about battling the elements to get through the Southern Ocean and complete the course while today it’s all about winning. Competing in this race is essential if you want to be regarded as an elite sailor—while to be a real success, you have to have won it,” Fylan said.
But unlike other sports or competitions—most often held in closed, controlled settings—the race is based on uncontainable elements, in this case Mother Nature herself. Aside from its main task to ensure that each team’s equipment is delivered to each stopover, DHL shipped critical spare parts weighing hundreds of pounds to four of the six teams throughout the race after the vessels experienced extensive damage.
Delivery is crucial
“This race has been one of the toughest logistical challenges for the teams and organizers as well as one of the world’s most difficult sporting events,” added Fylan. “As the race has gone on, more and more teams suffered problems, testing their logistics operations and the resources of DHL to the limit. We’ve had problems in previous races, of course, but the scale this time has been unprecedented and it’s a tribute to the teams and their partners—the Volvo Ocean Race and DHL—that the six boats were on the starting line in Miami and made it safely across the Atlantic to Lisbon for the final two-sprint legs around Europe.”
Just hours after the six racing teams had sailed away from Alicante, Spain for the start of the race last fall, DHL answered an emergency call to replace a broken mast for the Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing shore crew. In addition, between Leg 5 and Leg 6 of the race, the team’s racing yacht Azzam experienced hull damage while on the Southern Ocean, which led to Abu Dhabi’s Skipper Ian Walker suspending racing in Leg 5 and heading to Puerto Montt, Chile on April 4 to continue repairs. But cyclonic weather forecasts around Cape Horn caused the team to relocate their repair operations, thus requiring DHL to provision a charter vessel to transport Azzam to Itajaí, Brazil. This enabled the crew to make repairs necessary to the vessel in enough time to start in the Itajaí In-Port Race on April 21 and the start of Leg 6 from Miami the following day.