It used to be called the Whitbread Round the World Race. Sponsored by a brewery, a big ketch called Steinlager skippered by a kiwi - Sir Peter Blake - won it 1990. But in 1997 it all changed: everyone sailed boats of the same class. Boats were named after multi-nationals, like Dennis Conner's Toshiba, hulls and sails had ad's on them, and you could follow them on the web (dial-up). It was the new economy boats that caught my eye: EF Language's two boats, one with an all women crew, and Brunel-Sunergy (Dutch software and solar power outfits).
San Francisco America's Cup star Paul Cayard proved he could master the high seas and took 1st in EF Language. Dutch Olympian Roy Heiner was a come-from-behinder on BrunSun. They can sail, the Lowlanders. Heiner and crew took a 200 mile flyer after Cape Horn, went east of the Falklands, leap-frogged the fleet, and landed tanned, lean, hungry, and horny in Rio de Janeiro for Mardi Gras. Every boy's dream.
The 1997-1998 race introduced us to the work of photographer Richard Langdon, whose images you see here. Two of his photos of Brun Sun are in our apartment. I eat every meal beneath the shot taken on a beautiful day off the coast of France. Richard's website - Ocean Images - shows much of his work - including at Qing Dao - site of the Beiing Olympics sailing events.
Qing Dao is a port on the new Volvo Ocean Race course, which follows trade routes - Volvo's trade routes - not the racing sailor's shortest course circumnavigation - head south, circumnavigate Antarctica, head home.
The race started from Spain Saturday October 11, 2008 - and concludes next spring. you can follow it at www.volvooceanrace.org