Turner leaving helm of Volvo Ocean Race as organisers delay changes
By Simon Ward
Mark Turner is to step down as chief executive of sailing’s Volvo Ocean Race, after less than 18 months in the role, following a decision of the organisers to review the schedule for future editions and rule out an event involving new boats in 2019-20.
Today’s announcement comes just a month before the start of the 2017-18 race, although it is claimed that event will not be affected and Turner (pictured) will remain in situ until a replacement is found.
In June, plans were announced to hold the race biennially, as opposed to every three years, after the forthcoming edition, with new boats based on the Super 60 concept to debut in 2019-20.
However, the AB Volvo and Volvo Cars companies which own the Volvo Ocean Race have now resolved that “additional planning time" is needed to make these changes.
In a recent interview with Sportcal Insight, Turner claimed that new boats were necessary to take the competing and viewing experience to a new level, as has been the case with the America’s Cup, sailing’s blue riband event.
He said: “It will be more spectacular, even to non-sailors. The boats will look like spaceships and there will be two sets of boats – monohulls for the offshore and catamarans for the inshore, which will look like the America’s Cup boats.”
However, in a statement today, the Volvo Ocean Race said: “Following discussions with key stakeholders it has been determined that additional planning time is required to implement the recently announced changes to the race schedule.
“As a result, the proposed 2019-20 race in new boats will not take place as planned. A revised schedule for future Volvo Ocean Races will be announced as soon as possible. Volvo remains committed to ensuring that any planned changes deliver long-term sustainable benefits to the race and participating teams.
“The design work on the exciting new Super 60 concept, at the forefront of foiling offshore monohull technology, continues.”
The organisers claimed that there would be "no impact" on the 2017-18 race and that a final decision on whether to follow through with the switch to a biennial schedule will be made at a later stage, meaning that there could yet be some form of event starting in 2019 using the existing boats.
Turner joined the Volvo Ocean Race at the end of March 2016 having previously been executive chairman of OC Sport, the events company he founded in 1993, and has talked up the benefits of a race every two years, describing it as a "game-changer" in providing more continuity as teams, sponsors and host cities would be more confident about making a long-term commitment to a regular competition.
Turner was previously involved in the event as a sailor in 1989-90 and managing the Dongfeng Race Team, the Chinese entry, in 2014-15.
Henry Stenson, the chairman of the Volvo Ocean Race supervisory board, said today: “Whilst we regret the fact that Mark has decided to step down from his current role, we are grateful for the hard work and contribution over the last 16 months. The leadership team Mark has put in place will ensure the race remains both a world class sailing and business platform and we wish him all the best for the future.
Turner himself said: “Although I have decided to step down from my position, I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to lead the Volvo Ocean Race at this important time. I am confident the 2017-18 race will be one of the best ever.”
The forthcoming event, involving seven teams, starts in Alicante in Spain on 22 October and takes in destinations including Cape Town, Melbourne, Hong Kong, Auckland, Itajai in Brazil and Newport in Rhode Island, USA, before finishing in The Hague in the Netherlands late in June 2018.