The Ocean Race is often described as the longest and toughest professional sporting event in the world, sailing’s toughest team challenge and one of the sport’s Big Three events, alongside the Olympic Games and America’s Cup.
To truly understand the race, though, it’s better to think of it in a way the athletes who take part will recognise immediately. Put simply, The Ocean Race is an obsession, and many of the world's best sailors have dedicated years, even decades of their lives trying to win it.
Take Sir Peter Blake, who competed in the first edition of what was then the Whitbread Round the World Race in 1973-74 and came back again and again until he finally conquered his Everest, securing an overwhelming victory with Steinlager 2 in 1989-90. Only then was he able to fully turn his attention to other projects.
The race sits, just as it always has, at the intersection of human adventure, and world-class competition. Thanks to the work of the Onboard Reporters embedded with every team, fans are given a unique insight into just what it takes to win a race that is relentless in its demands – as teams give everything they have, 24 hours a day, in pursuit of the tiny advantages that can make all the difference.
The race’s concept is simple: it’s a round-the-clock pursuit of competitive edge and the ultimate ocean marathon, pitting the sport’s best sailors against each other across the world’s toughest waters. It’s relentless: the importance of winning, the adventure of life on board, the transformative effect on the sailors — all of these combine to give the race its power and depth.
The last edition of the race was the closest in history, with three teams virtually tied, approaching the finish line. After 126 days of racing spread across 11 legs, the winning margin for Charles Caudrelier’s Dongfeng Race Team was only 16 minutes. The top three teams were separated by just four points.
A total of 2.5 million people visited the Race Villages during the 2017-18 event, getting a first-hand taste of the action. Millions more followed the action on our digital platforms, television and via the news as the race set new high-marks for international coverage.
Now we enter a new era as the event continues to evolve. Two classes will compete in the 2021-22 edition of the race with the addition of the high-tech, foiling IMOCA 60 class adding a design and technical element. The one-design VO65 fleet will race on its third lap of the planet in 2021, with an emphasis on competition, youth and crew diversity.
Following the success of our ground-breaking and award-winning sustainability efforts in the last race, sustainability will continue to be a core value of the race as we go forward, as we redouble our efforts to restore ocean health and lead, inspire and engage on this critical issue.
The next edition of The Ocean Race will start from Alicante, Spain in the autumn of 2021.