Volvo Ocean Race announce Legends Regatta covering all editions

The Garden Party, which was held at Cape Town to celebrate the arrival of Ceramco
Ceramco NZ

The great and the good from the 37-year history of the Volvo and its predecessor Whitbread races are already putting the first week of November 2011 in their diaries, following the announcement of the Volvo Ocean Race Legends Regatta.

Professional skippers and owners of the boats which made the planet their race track are drawing up plans to sail once again to a round the world race village. The destination will be Alicante and the gathering will be the first ever official reunion of all who have ever sailed in the world's premier ocean race.

The aim is to have at least one representative boat from every edition of the race since 1973 and to attract as many people as possible who have ever crewed in any of the races. This is a pilgrimage with no penance at the end of it, a round the world club gathering to be enjoyed by the racers, and to give recognition to all that they achieved.

With around 2000 sailors having sailed in the 10 editions of what is now the Volvo Ocean Race, it's inevitable that there have been plenty of behind-the-scenes stories - fun and shenanigans aboard the boats and in port that haven't made it to the public domain.

Now, with the launch of the new Legends Regatta, taking place next year, it's time to spill the beans on a few such events. As a precaution, we have deliberately omitted the names of some of those involved... just to protect the guilty.

Dalts still arguing about whether it was his boat, Flyer, which was 1,000 miles in front or Ceramco, at the time of the diamasting
New Zealander Grant Dalton, himself a legend of six races, says you have to go back to the good old days to find the bad old days.

'The further you go back, the greater the fun,' he says. 'That was when the race was there to get you from one party to another; you had to go to sea to recover. We played hard when we were in port and sailed hard when we were at sea.'

Dalton did his first circumnavigation onboard the 1981-82 winner, the 76' Flyer, owned by Conny van Rietschoten of The Netherlands. 'We were never ever going very far very fast, so we had plenty of time to kill.

'In those days you had real food on the yachts, and there was plenty of it, so to stop ourselves from getting board, we set up a wine biscuit eating competition - the challenge being to see how many of these thin, shortbread-like biscuits you could get in your mouth without choking or breaking a biscuit. It's amazing how much time stupid things like this consumed.'

'In that same race, Mar del Plata, in Argentina, proved to be a nightmare stopover. We were there for six weeks with absolutely nothing to do except got to the beer tent, the scene of many memorable happenings. One night someone said, ‘we should get a stereo in here and liven this place up,'.

'With that said, one of our finest disappeared outside, got hold of Conny's car and drove it straight through the front of the tent, sending tables and chairs flying everywhere. He got out of the car, threw open both doors, turned up the volume on the car's sound system and we had our stereo - and a great party.'

Whitbread Around the World 1973 competitor, Kriter, sister-ship to King's Cup 09 entrant, El Oro
George Layton
More recently, Ross Field, a former race winner and veteran of five races, tells a story from the Volvo Ocean Race 2001-02 aboard News Corp on the Cape Town to Sydney stage.

'Jeff ‘Scotty' Scott has four false front teeth and when he steers the boat he's always got his tongue hanging out and flicking his teeth in and out of place. It was blowing ‘dogs off chains' this particular night and Scotty, who was steering, was yelling so hard to one of the crew, trying to be heard over all the noise, that he literally blew his teeth out. All the crew heard then was a cry of ‘Crytht, cor, I've loth my ething teef'.

So there we were in the middle of this high level competition and Scotty's got all the crew crawling around the back of the cockpit with torches, trying to find his false teeth. I was in my bunk and asleep at the time and the first I knew about it was when Scotty came below, shook me and woke me up. ‘Roth, Roth,' he shouted.

'I shot bolt upright, wide awake immediately, thinking the rig must have fallen out. ‘What's wrong Scotty?' I asked anxiously, trying to gather my senses. ‘Roth, I've loth my ething teef'. ‘What are you waking me for? I haven't got any effing teeth to give you'. The teeth were never found.

As far as parties go, the biggest and best was in Punta del Este, Uruguay in 1993-94 at the end of the leg from Auckland, recalls Field. 'Just about the entire fleet arrived in Punta at around 4am and as soon as we hit the dock everyone headed to a bar that was still open down on the foreshore.

21yr old, Erle Williams in his element, driving Flyer hard in the Southern Ocean in the 1981/82 Whitbread
'Within no time, we had one huge party on our hands. It was almost out of control, with all sorts of things, including chairs flying through the air for hell of it. Suddenly there was a drama; a very prominent Kiwi sailor had fallen off the terrace at the bar and cracked open his head - but not seriously. Still, the ambulance was called and while it was outside, one of our stood on a table and it collapsed, so the next thing he's in the back of the ambulance as well.

'Watching the local ambulance men trying to care for the two guys was all a bit much for another who shall remain nameless. He didn't trust them, so he decided he should step in and take control of the situation; he would be come the ambulance driver. With that decision made, he slipped into the ambulance and tried to drive it off, much to the horror of the ambos. The final scene was a massive ruckus with the ambulance men trying desperately to get the sailor out of their ambulance.'

The stories are endless and will no doubt be re-lived during the Legends Regatta next year. Perhaps then we shall find out who it was that ‘borrowed' a forklift truck in Uruguay and ‘parked' shore manager David Glen's car very precariously atop a shipping container in the boatyard... answers on a postcard please.

For more on the Legends http://www.volvooceanrace.com/news/news-legends/!click_here

To read the free online edition of the Volvo Ocean Race magazine, Life on the Extreme http://edition.pagesuite-professional.co.uk/launch.aspx?referral=other&refresh=aD1603Eg7Xx1&PBID=d2623da3-09c6-443e-ae19-44f7fd101fec&skip=!click_here

After 17 years of trying Peter Blake holds the Whitbread trophy aloft
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