Covering over 40 000 Nautical Miles over 9 months racing around the world in 65 foot sailing yachts is a massive test of endurance and equipment for sailors entered in the prestigious Ocean Race.
The Ocean Race – first billed as the Whitbread – was sailed for the first time in 1973/4 and was won by Mexican amateur Ramon Carlin in a Swan 65 yacht, Sayula II.
From 2001 the ownership of the race was taken over by Volvo and Volvo Cars and the race was renamed the ‘Volvo Ocean Race’.
In 2019 it was renamed The Ocean Race and still has Volvo as a major sponsor.
For the 2021-22 edition of the race, two classes of boats will be used – the IMOCA 60 and the now VO65.
Teams race day and night for up to 20 days at a time in conditions ranging from tropical to arctic storm whilst experiencing temperature variations of -5 to +40 degrees celsius. Worse for some will be that most are only allowed one change of clothes, the diet is mostly freeze dried food and the noise below is constant, pounding and sleep depriving. Home comforts are none, privacy is a joke, hardship a given and fitness levels need to be very high to maintain the constant shift changes, sail plan changes, endless tweaks to sail settings, maintenance and concentration needed to sail as fast as possible for as long as possible.
The Nelson Mandela Bay Metropolitan Municipality has, after many years of quiet lobbying by Alan Straton, submitted a bid to become the African city hosting The Ocean Race in their stopover preceeding the Southern Ocean leg. This stopover has for decades been hosted by Cape Town and Nelson Mandela Bay, with exemplary support and commitment from the Port of Port Elizabeth, Council green light in December 2018 and incredibly hard work by the Department of Sport, Arts and Culture managed to secure a shortlisting in the bid to become the stopover on the African Coast.
A professional presentation to The Ocean Race culminated in the shortlisting and a visit by the technical team on 21 and 22 May 2019. Headed by Phil Lawrence – Race Director, The Ocean Race, he was accompanied by Anna Goyne – Head of Logistics, The Ocean Race and Ashley Blake – Director, The Sports Consultancy.
During their visit the three met with senior decision makers from the City, including the Executive Mayor Mongameli Bobani, Executive Director of Sport, Recreation Arts and Culture (and now Acting City Manager) Noxolo Nqwazi, Local Project Manager in SRAC, Rebecca Nyangaresi-Gatang’i and Sailing East Cape representative, Alan Straton.
The team also met with key stakeholders organisations – MBDA, NMU, TNPA, NMBBC, NMBT who have all given their wholehearted support to this bid and look forward to hosting the event.
During the visit the team inspected the proposed key operational areas including the proposed docking and race village spaces on-land. Here special mention must be made of the Port of Port Elizabeth who have identified a special section of the port that will create an arena and one large unbroken area for all the race’s requirements. The initial offer is for 15 000 square meters of space in one homogenous area. This area lends itself to showcasing Route 67 and the Inner City. This along with upgrades and the recent establishment of the Central SRA will contribute to a unique African experience for our visitors who are expected to spend up to 2 weeks in the City.
Nelson Mandela Bay is offering a pretty unique experience to The Ocean Race organisers and competitors:
- A unique African Cultural Experience
- A large single homogeneous area for the Race Village and moorings
- Ideal staging point for the Southern Ocean Leg
- Incredibly friendly people
- Gateway to Malaria Free game parks and the Big Seven
- Laser focus on the event and our famous hospitality
On 22 May the Technical Team inspected the on-water race space and were transported by AB Marine Whale and Dolphin Watching to the Tug Boat Docking Area and out of the harbour to the envisaged finish line. Along the way our visitors were greeted by hundreds of Bottlenose Dolphins – all in support of the bid.
During the exhaustive two days the Technical Tean met key stakeholders from the Business Chamber, Mandela Bay Development Agency, Transnet National Ports Authority, Nelson Mandela Bay Tourism, Nelson Mandela University, The Ocean Sciences Campus, Safety and Security.
Members were shown the Beachfront, Hotels and Guest Houses, Shark Rock Pier, Feathermarket Centre, Tramways Building, Campanile, Route 67, Opera House, Donkin Reserve, City Hall and all points in between.
The point of the exercise was to demonstrate that all required facilities, cultural and leisure spots are all within walking distance of the proposed Ocean Race Race Village.
The various previous stopovers have estimated the economic benefits of The Ocean Race to be in numbers approaching R800 Million.
The benefit of The Ocean Race to JUST accommodation providers in the city will be huge – as an example the Ocean Race employees will be seeking 1400 bed nights. Add the teams, sponsors, their employees, masses of media, fans and curious tourists attracted here and the numbers ramp up very quickly.
The yachts are expected to spend up to two weeks in the Port of Port Elizabeth, the build up to take 10 days and the breakdown to take 7 days.
the Ocean Race has a strong focus on sustainability and legacy projects which align with those of the City.
Final bid numbers and agreements have to be submitted before 28 June 2019 with the announcement of the winning bids expected to be made in July 2019.
The Nelson Mandela Bay Metropolitan Municipality – incorporating Port Elizabeth, Uitenhage and Despatch – has submitted a bid to host a stopover for The Ocean Race taking place in 2021/22. The Ocean Race is steeped in history through it’s previous iterations as The Whitbread and The Volvo Ocean Race. Unprecedented support from the Port of Port Elizabeth has made this bid possible. This bid represents a dream come true for for Alan Straton who has been lobbying for many years. The City is now in the running and shortlisted with the final numbers to be submitted by the end of June 2019 and the announcement expected during July 2019.