Toughest yacht race in the world starts in Alicante

Monster waves, icebergs, freezing temperatures and scorching heat lie ahead for the sailors taking part in the toughest yacht race in the world. 
For the third time, Alicante provides a stunning backdrop as the starting point of the Volvo Ocean Race. 

It’s a race of daring, thrills and sheer nerve as each team powers their boat through challenging conditions in a bid to be the fastest. The race takes nine months and the last one covered about 39,000 nautical miles (72,000kms). 

Yacht at entrance to Volvo Ocean Race museum in Alicante

This year’s contest is going to be the longest in history lasting 39,379 nautical miles – nearly 73,000kms. 

This year’s route across four oceans and five continents goes from Alicante to Cape Town (South Africa), Abu Dhabi (United Arab Emirates), Sanya (China), Auckland (New Zealand), Itajai (Brazil), Newport(USA), Lisbon (Portugal), Lorient (France) and finishing in Gothenburg(Sweden). 

The nine team members – made up of eight sailors and one multimedia reporter - race day and night on each leg and can be at sea for up to 20 days at a time, living off dried food while they tackle treacherous seas. 

The race begins on October 11 in Alicante while in-port races take place from October 4. During this time you can visit the village to see the boats and try hands-on what it feels like to power the boat through high winds and rough seas. 

 It is the longest, most demanding and perilous sporting contest in the world. The race is an exceptional test of sailing prowess and human endeavour which has been built on the spirit of great seafarers. 

These brave men sailed the world’s oceans aboard square-rigged clipper ships more than a century ago. 

Sailing around the world single handed

It follows the adventures of English sailors Sir Francis Chichester, who was the first person to sail single-handed around the world by the clipper route, and Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, who was the first person to sail single handed and non-stop around the world. 

This led to talk of a round-the-world race which became a reality in 1973 with The Whitbread round the World Race. It was renamed the Volvo Ocean Race in 2001-02.  

Volvo Ocean Race Museum

Nowadays the boats are more streamlined, more aerodynamic with high-tech features on board but the challenge remains the same in the form of the Volvo Ocean Race, a contest seen as the pinnacle of achievement in the sport. 

Olympic medallist takes part

There are seven teams taking part including Team SCA, an all-female crew from Sweden;Team Espana led by Iker Martinez; Team Dongfeng (which means eastern wind) from China; and Team Abu Dhabi led by Great British skipper and Olympic silver medallist Ian Walker. 

For this race they will all compete in the same type of high performance racing boat, the Volvo Ocean 65 from Farr Yacht Design. Usually the teams design their own boat but this time it has already been created for them. 

This makes the race more exciting in that the buck stops with the crews – they cannot blame their designers or equipment because everyone is sailing in the same type of boat. 

Volvo Ocean Race museum

Try it for yourself

You can get a taste of what these sailors are in for when you visit the Volvo Ocean Race Museum in Alicante marina. 

The race is celebrating its 40th anniversary and, to celebrate, there is a photographic exhibition of 40 faces over the years. 

The museum opened two years ago in the race headquarters. It’s free to get in and you can try steering a boat through gale-force winds and find out for yourself what it must feel like to take part in this prestigious race. 

Volvo Ocean Race museum

Visit the NASA-inspired control room

You can see the NASA-inspired race control room, follow the route of the race, learn more about its history, marine ecosystems and what life must be like on board these superfast yachts. 

There are a number of 3D simulators and touch-screen panels to use, which makes it an interesting museum for all ages. 

There are giant screens and globes showing the oceans’ ecosystems and how some habitats are under threat through man’s activities. 

Visitors have a chance to find out about life on board these racing yachts and the trials the sailors face. The high-tech race centre tracks the boats 24 hours a day, every day, so you can monitor their progress during the nine-month race. 

Volvo Ocean Race museum in Alicante

Duran Duran get in on the act

Part of the exhibition also shows you the legendary figures who have taken part in previous editions, including Tracy Edwards, Magnus Olsson and Sir Peter Blake. 

One of the most famous, or infamous, yachts to have taken part is Drum, which was commissioned by Duran Duran lead singer Simon Le Bon to take part in the 1985/86 round the world yacht race. 

Unfortunately, the boat capsized in a race from the Isle of Wight to Plymouth and the team had one month to repair her for the big race. 

She successfully completed and came in third overall.  

How to get there   

Train:The RENFE train station is in Avda de Salamanca, which is 2kms from the Volvo Ocean Race museum. From the station, head for the Plaza Calvo Sotelo and head towards the Port along the Paseo Explanada. Walk alongside the marina on the N332 until you get to the Hotel Melia and the museum is further along the same road. The C6 airport bus also stops at the railway station.
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Airport:There is a bus – C6 - from Alicante airport every 20 minutes to take you to the bus station near the marina. You can then follow the marina northwards on the N332 to the Hotel Melia and follow this road to the museum.
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Bus:There are buses connecting the Costa Blanca beach resorts with Alicante as well as cross-Spain links with major cities such as Madrid, Barcelona and Malaga.From the bus station, walk alongside the marina on the N332 to the Hotel Melia and follow this road up to the museum.
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Tram:The tram runs from Benidorm along the coast to Alicante. The nearest stop to the museum is at the Mercado, where you can walk down the Rambla to the Paseo Explanada and along the Muelle Levante to the museum.
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Parking:There is a public car park near the casino on the marina, opposite the Hotel Melia.          

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