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Volvo Ocean Race announces Team AkzoNobel as first entry of 2017-2018 edition

Global Race to stop in Newport, RI in May of 2018

First Volvo Ocean Race Team to announce will led by first time skipper Simeon Tienpont (NED)

Dutch campaign, Team AkzoNobel, has today been announced as the first entry of the Volvo Ocean Race 2017-18 - over 15 months before the start of the next edition. The race will make its only North American stop in May of 2018 in Newport, RI.

Backed by AkzoNobel - a leading global paints and coatings company headquartered in Amsterdam, Netherlands, employing around 45,000 people worldwide, and whose portfolio includes well-known brands such as Dulux, Sikkens, International, Interpon and Eka.  The boat will be led by first time skipper Simeon Tienpont (NED), who will be racing in his third Volvo Ocean Race.

Having made his debut as a rookie onboard ABN AMRO TWO in 2005-06, he returned to the world's toughest offshore race to join Team Vestas Wind for the final two legs of the 2014-15 edition - and is delighted to be leading the Dutch campaign.

"I'm honored and incredibly excited to be skipper of Team AkzoNobel," said Tienpont, 34, who has also been part of two winning America's Cup teams -  BMW Oracle Racing in the 33rd edition, and Oracle Team USA in the 34th edition, in an illustrious sailing career. "We're both focused on high performance and share the same passion for success," he continued. "I can't wait to start racing.

Conrad Keijzer, ExCo member, AkzoNobel, said: "The Volvo Ocean Race offers an unparalleled storytelling and brand-building platform over a prolonged period of time.

"The company can raise awareness for its capabilities; excite and captivate both new and existing audiences and customers; develop business opportunities; attract talent and create a sense of pride and excitement among employees."

He continued: "Partnering with Simeon to form Team AkzoNobel is a winning combination - he's a true leader who puts safety and teamwork first and is both determined and inspirational."

Mark Turner, Volvo Ocean Race CEO, is delighted with the Dutch entry: "It's exciting that our first team announcement comes early in the cycle, is backed by a global brand, and features a first-time skipper. Those are three great positives for the Volvo Ocean Race."

He continued: "The route for the next edition will feature more action, more speed, more tough miles and more host venues, but a shorter race - a move that takes the Race closer to its original roots and heritage, while improving its strong commercial value and excellent business case for sponsors."

Team AkzoNobel represents a nation with not only a rich maritime heritage, but a special connection to the Volvo Ocean Race, with Dutch teams having lifted the trophy three times, in 1977-78, 1981-82 and 2005-06.

Indeed, Dutch sailing legend Conny van Rietschoten remains the only skipper in the history of the race to have won two editions in a row, and Tienpont, who won the prestigious Conny van Rietschoten trophy - the highest honour in Dutch sailing - in 2013, is proud to be following in the 'Flying' Dutchman's footsteps.

"The Netherlands are very fond of this race and that's all because of Conny van Rietschoten," he explained. "He brought the event, then called The Whitbread, to an entirely new level. He built his boat in an excellent Dutch boatyard and recruited professional sailors from all around the world."

The team announcement comes less than a week after the Volvo Ocean Race unveiled an exciting new route for the next edition of the 43-year-old event.

The racetrack, which is seen as a return to the race's roots, will require teams to sail over three times more distance in the Southern Ocean than in the previous edition - and the fleet, which departs Alicante, Spain in autumn 2017, will race around 45,000 nautical miles (nm) around the planet.

Visiting 11 cities across five continents, the Volvo Ocean Race represents a unique opportunity for AkzoNobel, which has a presence in over 80 countries, to showcase its products before a huge global audience.

 "Add in Simeon's impressive track record and it's this irresistible combination of experience, tradition, expertise and human endeavor which will prove so vital once the world's premier offshore race is underway," concluded Keijzer.

To celebrate the announcement of the Dutch team in The Hague, the Scheveningen pier underwent a colorful makeover, which will remain a remarkable eye-catcher until the Race finishes with a grand finale in The Hague in summer 2018.

2017-2018 Race Route

·         The Southern Ocean is the world's most remote expanse of often storm-filled ocean that wraps itself around Antarctica.

·         Route announcement made during event at Volvo Ocean Race HQ in Alicante.

·         2017-18 route to be longest ever sailing distance at around 45,000 nautical miles.

Tough, intense, and featuring almost three times as much Southern Ocean sailing as the previous edition, the Volvo Ocean Race 2017-18 will be contested over the longest distance in race history at around 45,000 nautical miles (nm), crossing four oceans and taking in 11 major cities on five continents.

The 43-year-old race around the world - the ultimate ocean marathon, pitting the sport's best sailors, against each other across the world's toughest oceans - will start from Alicante in late 2017 with a 700nm sprint to Lisbon, Portugal that will provide the first test of the form guide.

From the Portuguese capital, the fleet will plunge south towards Cape Town, South Africa, before an epic few weeks racing through the Southern Ocean and then back north across the equator to Hong Kong SAR, China in what will be one of the longest legs in Race history.

After a non-scoring transition to Guangzhou, China where an in-port race and full set of stopover activities will be held, the ocean racing will resume from Hong Kong to Auckland, New Zealand. The fleet will then head back through the Southern Ocean, around the most famous landmark of them all, Cape Horn, and up through the Atlantic Ocean to the southern Brazilian city of Itajaí.

From there, as in the last edition, the boats will head back in to the northern hemisphere to the Eastern Seaboard of the USA, Newport, Rhode Island, before a blast across the North Atlantic on the blue riband transatlantic leg, which will see them make a first return to British shores in 12 years.

The fleet will arrive in Cardiff, capital city of Wales, in May 2018, before beating its way around the top of the British Isles on a short but potentially brutal leg to the penultimate stopover in Gothenburg, Sweden. The 2017-18 race will end with a grand finale into The Hague, Netherlands.

The total distance of the racetrack is longer than in any of the 12 previous editions of an event which was born as The Whitbread Round the World Race in 1973.

But while the teams will sail more nautical miles than ever before, the race itself is scheduled to be one month shorter than in most of the last 12 editions.

"More action, more speed, more tough miles and more host venues, but a shorter race - it's an evolution in the right direction and a move that takes the Race closer to its original roots and heritage, while improving its strong commercial value and excellent business case for sponsors," said Mark Turner, who took over as CEO of the Volvo Ocean Race earlier this month.

Around 12,500 nm of the race will take place in the Southern Ocean, the fast-moving, ice cold waters around the Antarctic where, unhindered by land, some of the deepest weather depressions circle the bottom of the global, generating giant waves and punishing,  heavy winds that can peak at over 70 knots (130 km/h). In the previous edition, the teams spent around 4,500 nm racing in the Southern Ocean.

"In 2017-18 we'll be visiting some of the world's most famous sailing cities - places like Cape Town, Auckland and the only North American stop in Newport, Rhode Island - while also taking the Race to fresh audiences in new cities," Turner said, as the route was unveiled on Wednesday.

Firstly to Hong Kong, an incredible city, which will act as a hub for south-east Asian fans and VIP guests. Then on to Guangzhou, China -  the first time the Race will visit one of just four, premium Tier 1 cities in the country.

"And finally to Cardiff, taking the Race back to the UK for the first time since 2005-06. The United Kingdom is the birthplace of The Whitbread Round the World Race, which had its first start from Portsmouth in 1973 and later became the Volvo Ocean Race in 1998."

Looking forward, Turner added: "It's also great to be preparing for a fourth consecutive start from our home port of Alicante, and heading back to familiar cities where we're building a legacy for the Race - to Lisbon, Itajaí, Gothenburg and The Hague."

Richard Mason, Operations Director for the race, commented: "In the last edition we welcomed over 2.4 million visitors and over 70,000 corporate guests to our host city venues. We're determined to offer even more exciting sailing in 2017-18, while making the race village experience even better for our fans, guests and partners."

Mason, himself a five-time Volvo Ocean Race sailor, admitted: "I'm pretty tempted to return to the sailing now I've seen this amazing new route, but my new CEO has banned me!"

The Southern Ocean has played a huge role in the history of the Race. In the early years of The Whitbread, the fleet would head as deep into the Southern Ocean as possible, braving the icebergs and ferocious winds of the Roaring Forties and Furious Fifties in order to shave as much distance off the route as they could.

In more recent editions, the boats have raced north through the Indian Ocean, towards the Middle East - and have only returned to the south and its more extreme weather for the shorter leg across to Cape Horn.

"Of course, safety remains paramount," said Phil Lawrence, incoming Race Director. "With state-of-the-art tracking systems and satellite communication, alongside access to in-depth route information, we can stay one step ahead of the conditions and limit the exposure of the sailors.

"But ultimately, there will always be danger. Sailors know they put their lives on the line when they take on 'the Everest' of professional sailing. That's what the Volvo Ocean Race is all about - taking the toughest conditions that Mother Nature can throw at you, and overcoming them."


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