A group of young dashing racers are training and going through their paces in Lisbon’s harbor these days. There is sun, good wind and a magnificent boat to sail – all under the Turkish flag.
Alvimedica, Turkey’s most innovative medical company, which was founded in 2007 and has produced a state-of-the-art cardiovascular device, came up with the idea of participating in the Volvo Ocean Race this year. The company bought a team and invested in a seven-year racing plan for its worldwide marketing strategy.
Chief Executive Officer Cem Bozkurt, a passionate sailboat racer himself, told the Hurriyet Daily News that there were good reasons for this. “We think anything that comes with the Volvo Ocean Race – agility, teamwork, strength and courage – represent our company values,” said Bozkurt. “It is also our contribution to the Turkish sailing community as a role model, as a good target for young sailors to look up to.”
Alvimedica’s marketing director, Şehnaz Öğut Vartanyan, said the company would most likely enter the U.S. market before the end of 2014. “The Volvo Ocean Race is a good step to create awareness among healthcare professionals in the U.S. for us.”
Team Alvimedica is still in its formation. Two young American sailors, Charlie Enright, 29, and Mark Towill, 25, are the confirmed names, but auditions are continuing in Lisbon. The boat is designed as a uniformed platform this year and all teams will be racing on identical boats. Volvo made this a priority this year, which helped more teams enter. The Swedish car and engine company collaborated with legendary skipper Bruce Farr to design a 65-foot boat with enhanced safety measures and a greater main sail body.
‘A dream come true’
Enright and Towill, natives of Newport, Rhode Island, have been dreaming of racing the Volvo Ocean Race since their childhood days. “We are very excited,” Enright said. “We will be the youngest team in the race, and the new design of the boat actually puts us on an equal footing with the most seasoned sailors.”
The Volvo Ocean Race 2014 will start from Alicante, Spain, on Oct. 4. The teams will then push to turn the Cape Hope and reach Abu Dhabi before the end of the year. The boats will cross the Indian Ocean and make stopovers in China, Australia and continue to the toughest leg which will be crossing the Pacific Ocean to reach Brazil.
Enright, Towill and the rest of the team will practice across the Atlantic Ocean in the coming weeks, while Alvimedica will visit its home base in Newport in June.
The Volvo Ocean Race is watched by 1.5 billion viewers on TV and more than 5 billion on the Internet. During the nine-month race, sailors lose about 11 kilograms. As a pure endurance race in itself, the competition has five confirmed teams from China, Abu Dhabi, Sweden, Brunei and Turkey this year. Two more teams are expected to join in the coming weeks.