Part One -- Mark Turner: Taking on the World
New Volvo Ocean Race CEO Mark Turner talks exclusively to Sail Racing Magazine about the challenge of taking charge of one of sailboat racing’s hallowed brands.
SRM: You come to this role with experience of the race both as competitor - 1989-90 on British Defender, the British Armed Services entry - and in the last race as head of the Chinese entry, Dongfeng Race Team. Has the VOR always been a significant part of your life?
Mark Turner: I did the race when I was 22 years old; my first big adventure in life. I went as far as Auckland and then I had to go back to my warship which was due to be involved in War Games.
Months later I sat on the warship off of Portland Bill in the middle of a pseudo-war, with gas attacks going off and missiles flying over my head as I watched my boat go past with a broken mast. I remember thinking "Why am I sat here with a gas mask on? Why am I not on the boat?"
SRM: Why then such a long gap before you got involved with running the Dongfeng campaign?
MT: I suppose I watched the race from the outside quite a bit in that time. It was while we were growing OC Sport and doing other stuff in sailing – like Ellen MacArthur’s Vendee Globe campaign and her other circumnavigations.
To be honest, the Volvo Ocean Race budgets were too expensive for me to get involved in back then. Vendee Globe campaigns and things like that were in the range of two to five million. The idea of going and finding 30 or 40 million for sailing just seemed ridiculous to me, so I didn't put any energy into looking.
I think it was probably about two editions ago that I was onto Knut, saying, "Look, if you've got some leads or opportunities, then we would be interested to be involved.”
Then the change to one design took the budgets down, so we got more interested. When Knut started to talk to Dongfeng we were one of the few solutions for him to just pass a whole project over to, to get a deal across the line with him and take it on for the race.
It was great to get back involved and back on the team side. It wasn't the plan, but that campaign ended up being my last real project at OC Sport.
SRM: What are the differences between being part of the team and being part of the race organisation?
MT: The team side is a lot of fun and very engaging. It’s an emotional ride, the ups and downs of a team. I really enjoyed having the time to work on the communications side of it along with being involved in everything else.
The event side? Well that’s just like being a punch bag in the middle, being punched from all around. I know that very well, I've been doing it for decades. But here I am - back on the punch bag side.
SRM: Talk a bit about the difference between the Volvo organisation and other title sponsors. Perhaps not everyone appreciates that Volvo don’t just sponsor the race, they own it outright.
MT: Well it's two different companies - Volvo Group and Volvo Cars - which have been separate companies now for quite a few years, that jointly own the race 50/50. I’m not sure that should really matter to people on the outside... READ THE FULL ARTICLE