Volvo Ocean Race: What's involved?

What makes the Volvo Ocean Race such a challenge? We talk to Volvo Ocean Race to find out what's involved.

The Volvo Ocean Race is a yacht race around the world, held every three years and is an exceptional test of sailing prowess and human endeavour which has been built on the spirit of great seafarers - fearless men who sailed the world’s oceans aboard square rigged clipper ships more than a century ago.

Consisting of nine legs from October to July, the yachts have to travel around the globe in harsh conditions.

When the race first started the challenge was not a race as such, but recording the fastest time between ports. This meant new levels of pride for themselves and great recognition for their vessel.

The spirit that drove those commercial sailors along the web of trade routes, deep into the bleak latitudes of the Southern Ocean and around the world’s most dangerous capes, emerges today in the form of the Volvo Ocean Race, a contest now seen as the pinnacle of achievement in the sport.

The first edition of this sporting adventure came in the wake of two remarkable sailors of the last century, Sir Francis Chichester and Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, men who drew worldwide acclaim for amazing solo voyages around the planet. Inevitably their success led to talk in international sailing circles of a race around the world for fully crewed yachts. It became a reality in 1973 with The Whitbread round the World Race, the longest, most demanding and perilous sporting contest the world had known.

Dangerous it was. In that very first race three competing sailors were lost after being washed overboard during storms. This led to the inevitable call for that inaugural contest to be the last, but the desire for unbridled adventure and great competition led to the race being staged every four years. The re-badged Volvo Ocean Race was run for the first time in 2001-02. Today it is, quite simply, the "Everest of Sailing".

During the nine months of the Volvo Ocean Race, which starts in Alicante, Spain, in October 2011 and concludes in Galway, Ireland, during early July 2012, the teams will sail over 39,000 nautical miles of the world’s most treacherous seas via Cape Town, Abu Dhabi, Sanya, Auckland, around Cape Horn to Itajaí, Miami, Lisbon, and Lorient.

Each of the entries has a sailing team of 11 professional crew and the race requires their utmost skills, physical endurance and competitive spirit as they race day and night for more than 20 days at a time on some of the legs. They will each take on different jobs on board the boat and on top of these sailing roles, there will be two sailors that have had medical training, as well as a sailmaker, an engineer and a dedicated media crew member.

During the race the crews will experience life at the extreme: no fresh food is taken on board so they live off freeze dried fare, they will experience temperature variations from -5C to +40C and will take only one change of clothes. They will trust their lives to the boat and the skipper and experience hunger and sleep deprivation.

The race is the ultimate mix of world-class sporting competition and on-the-edge adventure, a unique blend of onshore glamour with offshore drama and endurance. It is undeniably the world’s premier global race and one of the most demanding team sporting events in the world.

Fore more information about the Volvo Ocean Race, check out the official Volvo Ocean Race website.