As we have probably flogged the race platform horse to death, I thought raising the rationale of how the RO has choosen Stopovers in the past and what lessons can be learnt for the future going forward might encourage discussion.
When the RO has selected Stopovers or Host Cities todate it would appear they have used the following rationale:
1. Has to be consistent with the entire route start to finish and fit within weather windows.
That makes some interim stopover countries outside the start and finish approaches mandatory like Sth Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Sth America and North America. However in recent times the Middle East, India and Asia have been incorporated despite not being intirely consistent with this course setting approach. There has also been some bizzare exceptions like NZ getting just a 48 hour pitstop (Wellington) in 2006 and missing out entirely in 2008/09.
2. The Host City has to Financialy Contribute.
This in the form of capital and operating expediture and or paying the RO with Host City fee.
3. The Host City/ Country Entering a Team
4. The Host City/Country Satisfying the Joint RO's Marketing Plans for Light/ Heavy Duty Vehicles etc.
So on balance it would appear in recent times Factors Nos 3 and 4 have arguably played a more significant role than more traditional factors used in race course selection.
The best example of the former is the Abu Dhabi stopovers in 2011 & 2014 editions where the entire course was put on its ear, arguably losing many fans, even those regarded as "rusted on" with the race on top of a freighter concept in 2011 to address piracy concerns.
After winning the event last edition Abu Dhabi walked away from the VOR despite the capital invested by others in accommodating their stopover demands.
The best example of accommodating the RO's own marketing plans is obviously Asia being introduced in 2008 (Singapore/Qingdao) and remaining to this day using other locales This is despite the imposts that places on weather windows, race length/time and costs born by teams to accommodate that. DongFeng and China are probably unique in satisfying both Factors 3 & 4, albeit ironicaly DongFeng are a Volvo competitor.
B. CARDIFF A CASE STUDY
So with a view to looking into the minds of a Host City and what it can contribute in terms of improving and consolidating race participation and a global audience for potential sponsors, I have chosen Cardiff the Leg 8/9 stopover in the 2008/09 edition.
It is noted this edition was the first to employ OBR's to take advantage of the Inmarsat 4 constellation and faster data speeds and facilitate streaming.
Galway's features in terms of the the above factors are:
1. It is in Europe so automatically qualifies being on the finish approach. coincidently it corresponds with Cardiff as the Nth Atlantic Leg stopover and the two can be compared side by side in a few weeks.
2. Its financial contribution towards staging the stopover included €8.0m from the Irish Government.
3. Albeit a relatively low budget team it had one in Green Dragon. Interestingly an Irish/Chinese sponsored team so with a China (Sanya) stopover that generated more bang for buck for the Team sponsors.
4. Having joint Chinese sponsors, their interests were also satisfied by having a China Stopover ond one that the RO considers important for their own marketing ideals.
C. DID GALWAY CONTRIBUTE TO THE RACE
• 420,000 visits to Race Village and 230,000 to Salthill. The combined total was four times that expected and remains a record to this day for any Village, Stopover, Start or Finish. Competitors were universal in their rating it as the best stopover yet.
• While high Race ViIlage footfall traffic might not translate directly into regional media statistics, high patronage does translate into avoiding the "empty stadium" effect and the overall race being attractive to a global audience. A good comparison is traditional stopovers like Capetown Town and Auckland while having superior foot traffic, their national media impact is also minute on a global scale. The converse also can apply for instance where Newport has both low footfall traffic and a low USA media impact.
• While having one of the lowest budgets (Ericsson's was €50M), Green Dragon probably enjoyed one of the highest ROI of any team from its association with the Galway Stopover model, despite and quite apart from having dual national sponsorship.
D. DID THE RACE CONTRIBUTE TO GALWAY/IRELAND
• €55.8m economic impact on Galway and Ireland
• €36.5m of spending by race spectators from outside the local region
• 650,000 visits to Race Village and Salthill. Over 90% had no direct interest in sailing.
• In addition to leveraging the races global audience, Tourism Ireland conducted marketing initiatives at other international stopovers.
• 99% of international visitors would recommend Galway as a holiday destination. • The community are the beneficiaries of various public facilities and urban renewal positives.
Note: The link below is a Report utilising an economic impact analysis prepared by Deloitte indicating an economic impact of €55.8m, the highest recorded at a Volvo Ocean Race for a stopover port and comparable to start host cities at that time.
Galway was undoubtedly a success on all fronts, this is even more remarkable as it occured on the cusp of the Global Financial Crisis.
The above outcome was instrumental to Galway being the finish Host City for the 2011/12 Edition.
F. WHAT CAN BE DRAWN FROM THIS FOR THE FUTURE
1. There is a strong financial link between teams and host city selection that can't be ignored. This can be further strengthened by taxation benifits that may exist in a host country and or municipality.
2. Notwithstanding the above, should that linkage be pursued at say the expense of a race course that is viable in the long term? i.e. avoid another Abu Dhabi.
3. Should the focus be on establishing more permanent stopovers to encourage stability and greater investment there for not just aquatic sports like the VOR, but consolidate a commercial hub, urban renewal etc? The Viaduct in Auckland is a good example.
4. In addition to business, Governments will contribute towards Host City establishment and development if they are given sufficient public benefit reasons to do so.