Monday, September 22, 2008

Le Tour du Monde

Way back when the Internet was new to me, I happened upon a website which was following something called the Whitbread Round the World Race. This was back in 97/98 for what it's worth. At that time, it was by far and away the very best website I'd ever seen - it was interactive, it was well designed and it was addictive. Every day I went back to see how far the boats had gone, which one was leading, whether they'd become becalmed in the doldrums, etc. It successfully made a sport which is completely spectator unfriendly (since it takes place in the middle of the ocean between boats separated by hundreds of miles) into one which was gripping and involving and watchable. [By the way, I remembered the name of the company which had created and designed and maintained the site - Quokka Sports - but a quick web search would suggest that they went bust once the mainstream corporate media caught up with what they were doing and copied it, which is, I suspect, how these things go. But anyway, I digress...]

Obviously things have changed on the internet, and there are now loads of well-designed and interesting sites (and a hundred times more which are neither), but I still remember looking at that site and being able to marvel at not only the content but the concept and the technology that went into the site itself. So, it was kind of a nostalgic moment when I discovered that as well as hosting me last week, Alacant was also hosting the beginning of the 2008/2009 version of this race (and there were signs and ads all round town directing one to the race village - and significantly fewer such signs directing one to the author of Csikszereda Musings, for some reason)

The race, now no longer the Whitbread Round the World race, since a not-very-good brand of beer only available in the UK was an illogical sponsorship partner for such an event, is now called, much more logically, the Volvo Ocean Race (I suppose Volvo are at least a global brand, though that's about as close a link as I can work out. The race will stop briefly in Sweden I believe, so that's another tenuous link). It starts on October 11th, but the race village opening party was on Friday, and everything's gearing up for the off - there are sponsors buildings where you can play games and look at stuff about Volvo, Puma, Telefonica and so on, should you be completely at a loose end and have finished counting the grains of sand on Alicante beach or any other more interesting activities. You can go and look at the boats, and see what kind of conditions that the race takes place under - there are 11 people on each boat, and let me tell you, they're not very big, and there are no showers, and you could be away from port for 35 days at a time, and you might even get swept overboard. I was left with the impression that the people who participate in this race are both extremely brave and somewhat mentally deranged.

Anyway, it's no longer run by the innovative Quokka Sports, but I'm guessing the website for the race will be worth watching once it gets under way. We were staying in the same hotel as the Eriksson 4 team, so I'm "supporting" them (by which I mean, I'll keep a vague eye out for their position in the race).
The race village as seen from the castle - the bit with the white tent like things at the top left of the jetty is it.

The Puma and Telefonica boats. 11 people in those things. For weeks at a time. Nutters.

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