Volvo Ocean Race sets sail under new ownership

The Volvo Ocean Race is set to navigate a fresh path after Volvo Group and Volvo Cars, the co-owners of the sailing event for the past 20 years, said they will transfer ownership to sports management and production company Atlant Ocean Racing Spain.

The announcement was made with the 2017-18 Race currently ongoing. The current owners share a name but are not connected. Volvo Cars is owned by Chinese firm Zhejiang Geely Holdings, and makes passenger cars, while the Volvo Group is a listed company in Sweden and makes trucks, heavy machinery and other engineering products.

Atlant Ocean Racing is led by Richard Brisius, Johan Salén and Jan Litborn, who have extensive experience in the round the world race, having worked with seven Volvo Ocean Race campaigns over the past 28 years. Brisius and Salén started as sailors in the 1989-90 Race, before finding success as team managers, including winning efforts with EF Language (1997-98) and Ericsson 4 (2008-09).

In November 2017, Brisius and Salén were named president and co-president of the current edition of the Race, taking over from outgoing chief executive, Mark Turner. Turner handed in his resignation in September after the series announced it would delay the implementation of reform proposals.

“The history of this round the world race is inspiring and the future is very promising,” Brisius said. “We are in this for the long run and we are determined that the race will go from strength to strength as a sustainable premier world event. I look forward to being part of evolving this unique race by co-operating together with the teams, cities, Volvo and all our key stakeholders.”

The organisers of the race are considering having two classes of boats racing for the next edition in 2021, potentially with the existing Volvo Ocean 65 one-design class and another class, yet to be determined, competing in the same race.

“We will continue to innovate, and it is promising that from day one we can think long-term as we have the resources secured to deliver the next race already,” Salén said. “Opening the race to another existing class would allow us to tap into an existing inventory of round the world race boats that are at the cutting edge of technology. We see this as a way to challenge the best sailors in the world with a class that encourages development and sits at the forefront of the sport.”

The current leadership group of the Volvo Ocean Race will continue to engage with stakeholders in the coming weeks in an effort to move the race to the next level both commercially and from a sporting perspective. More details are expected by the end of this edition of the race, which commenced in Alicante, Spain in October and is due to finish in the Dutch city of The Hague on June 30.

While the next race will start in 2021, organisers said additional significant racing activity is expected to take place as early as possible to offer stakeholders an extended period of activation in the build-up to the start of the next race and to allow future teams the opportunity to build an extensive training programme.

Volvo Cars will remain as a sponsor of the 2021 race, while organisers said talks are already being held with existing host cities and sponsors for the next race and prior sailing activities.

“After 20 years we feel that it is time to hand over responsibility for this prestigious competition to a new and capable owner with the experience and know-how needed to develop it even further,” Björn Annwall, senior vice-president at Volvo Cars, said. “Volvo Cars will continue to support the next edition of the race as a sponsor with special focus on sustainability.”