The air miles continue to pile up for George BLAKE, the Volvo's Director of Strategic Relationships, and the visa entry stamps of China, India and the Middle East clog the pages of his passport.
While talks are at advanced stage in a number of the wish-list frontiers, according to BLAKE, the Competition is particularly intense in China with Shanghai, Qingdao, Hainan Island, Hong Kong and Guangzhou all vying for stopover bragging rights. And a lot more besides.
BLAKE says, 'The Beijing Olympics will just be completed when the Volvo Ocean Race sets sail for China, and what better way to maintain the fabulous global reach and momentum the country will have achieved through hosting the Games of the XXIX Olympiad by both hosting what will be a landmark stopover, and utilizing the Volvo Ocean Race as a global ambassador for China and Chinese business in many of the key economic and sporting centres of excellence in the world.
'There is already massive interest in sailing in China, and even though there was no Chinese entry in the 2005-2006 Volvo Ocean Race, a remarkable 253.2 million Chinese viewers, a quarter-of-a-billion, 14% of the total 1.8billion global audience tuned in, so with a Chinese stopover and a Chinese entry, the potential numbers watching the 2008-2009 race in China are quite staggering.'
Of those who ply their trade on the coal face of ocean racing, Mike SANDERSON (NZL), the winning skipper in 2005-06, relishes the prospect not only of a Chinese stopover, but also racing against a Chinese boat.
SANDERSON says, 'Many of my friends are sailing on Emirates Team New Zealand in this year's America's Cup against Team China and they tell me how professionally they go about anything they undertake, so a Volvo Ocean Race stop over in China would be phenomenal.
'With almost 20,000 km of coastline and nearly 100,000 inland lakes, and yacht clubs being established to cater for a burgeoning demand, the potential for sailing in China is massive. Given the renowned strategic, tactical thinking and extraordinary physical toughness of Chinese sportsmen and women, the Volvo Ocean Race would be a wonderful platform and a huge challenge for the top Chinese sailors.'
That is a sentiment echoed by Volvo Ocean Race CEO Glenn BOURKE. He says, 'Whilst I do not believe Team China can win this year's America's Cup, I see no reason why a Chinese-owned syndicate could not go all the way in the 2008-2009 Volvo Ocean Race.'The Volvo Ocean Race is an ISAF Special Event. For more information on the Volvo Ocean Race, the Volvo Open 70 and the teams competing, visit the official Volvo Ocean Race website - www.volvooceanrace.org.
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