Yachting: Volunteers on Volvo race radar

By Mike Rose

The round-the-world stopover extravaganza at the viaduct needs plenty of keen helpers

Big crowds are expected for the sailing stopover, where activities will include a grinder challenge and air balls.
Photo / Glenn Jeffrey
Big crowds are expected for the sailing stopover, where activities will include a grinder challenge and air balls. Photo / Glenn Jeffrey

Big crowds are expected for the sailing stopover, where activities will include a grinder challenge and air balls.

Volvo Ocean Race organisers are looking for volunteers and those selected could be right in the heart of the action.

While participants lick their wounds in Cape Town over the next week or so, planning for the Auckland stopover is in full swing.

The six boats, or at least those that are still sailing after another three legs, will arrive here on or about March 8, stay for 11 days, then set sail on March 19.

In that time, they will be hauled out, fully checked and repaired. They will also be the catalyst for the most exciting marine festival this country has seen.

Although interest in the America's Cup regattas of 2000 and 2003 attracted thousands to the waterfront, there was little for those crowds to do once they got there. They could ooh and aah over the yachts, they could watch the racing on the giant screens and they could soak up the ambience in one of the surrounding bars or restaurants.

But the Volvo stopover promises to be different. Local organisers, using a blueprint unveiled at the race start in Alicante, Portugal, will create a highly interactive race village based in and around the Viaduct Events Centre.

The race village will cover 20,000sq m and feature 12 hours of entertainment each day. At its heart will be the Volvo pavilion, home to the interactive Volvo experience zone. This will give visitors an insight into life on a round-the-world yacht and will include a grinding challenge and what organisers are calling "an adrenalin-filled" race simulator.

There will also be a 3D cinema, air balls, other interactive attractions and a trade show.

Auckland stopover port director Tom Mayo said it would be a huge logistical operation. In late February, 150 shipping containers will arrive, loaded with equipment for the team syndicates and for the stopover.

Because of the relatively short times between one stopover and the next, race organisers have created two identical sets of this equipment. Each gear-laden set of containers leapfrogs the other around the world; the ones for Auckland coming from Abu Dhabi and then heading to Miami, the other set leaving China's Sanya for Itajal, Brazil.

With the various attractions likely to draw Rugby World Cup-sized crowds to the Viaduct, Mayo says there are great opportunities for members of the public to be involved.

"Like all major events, the Auckland stopover will depend on its volunteer team to deliver a fantastic experience."

Mayo estimates there will be a need for 400 volunteers during the event. "We are now recruiting volunteers - aged from 16 to 70-plus - to work in a huge variety of roles on and off the water before, during and after the stopover," he says.

Heading the volunteer team will be Ruth Tuiraviravi, a Tauranga-based mother of three who ran the volunteers' programme for last year's World Rowing Championships.

"I know that volunteering for something like this can be a life-changing experience," she says.

"The buzz, excitement and team rapport that builds over an event is unique. I'm still in touch with hundreds who volunteered for the World Rowing Championships and many of them have put their hands up again for the Volvo stopover.

"We need volunteers with sailing and boating knowledge for roles on and off the water, whether it's working with the teams, assisting with our race academy or acting as guides talking about the Volvo Ocean Race.

"Halsey Wharf will house the six team bases and the yacht haulout area. We need to unload the teams' shipping containers and get the bases set up before the fleet arrives.

"After arrival, each yacht is hauled out for inspection and maintenance before the pro-am and in-port races. Then, after the start of leg five to Brazil, everything needs to be dismantled and packed back into containers to go to Miami."

Tuiraviravi is also looking for volunteers to help with the Volvo Ocean Race Academy; an event held in each stopover port. In Auckland, it will feature a team-racing clinic in Optimist dinghies and an RS:X windsurfer tour.

There will also be "try sailing" sessions for children.

Tuiraviravi says there are also lots of opportunities for those who are not boaties.

In the new Viaduct Events Centre, which will house race operations, corporate hospitality and the media centre, volunteers are needed to help with greeting and hosting, media services, accreditation, operations and administration.

There will also be a large spectator services' team to welcome visitors, provide information on the race and the village, and assist with crowd flow and control.

Tuiraviravi emphasises that those volunteering do not have to be available for the entire period of the stopover.

"We need volunteers who can work for a week, two weeks or a month and more," she says.

"Some areas require workers for just a few hours a day, while operations will run 24/7 and we will create shift systems to cover these. We will also tailor job shares and hours to fit the right volunteers."

Volunteers will be provided with uniforms and meals.

And, for those with a bit of an acting bent, there are a couple of rather more unusual roles on offer.

Mayo says: "We need an albatross and an octopus and a few other marine creatures."

Wisdom the Albatross is the official mascot of Keep the Oceans Clean, a global environmental project that is the focus of the Auckland stopover's schools programme.

Mayo says fit actors or wannabe performers are required to get into character to play Wisdom, his friend the octopus and the other marine creatures that will help to educate schoolchildren and entertain the crowds visiting the Race Village.

Mayo expects to hold one full volunteer get-together before the fleet arrives.

Volvo Ocean Race

Auckland Stopover:

March 8: Race village opens and fleet arrives in Auckland
March 16: Pro-am races
March 17: In-port race
March 18: Start of leg five to Brazil

Volunteer roles required

- Maritime logistics
- On-water operations
- Runners for competing teams
- Volvo Ocean Race Academy assistants
- Schools group guides around the village
- Keep the Oceans Clean environment project
- Volvo Ocean Race simulator assistants
- Volvo Ocean Race grinder assistants
- Protocol manager
- VIP hosts
- Wisdom the Albatross and his friends

To register interest in becoming a volunteer, go to www.volvooceanraceauckland.com

- NZ Herald

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