—One of sailing's most grueling challenges, each team member must play his part in order for the team to succeed at the Volvo Ocean Race

To sail around the world – the idea itself abounds with intrigue, peril and adventure. Circumnavigating the globe, mastering the untamed waters of a planet dominated by oceans, is a quest that has transfixed the human imagination since mankind discovered that the Earth is indeed round. Today, that spirit of adventure and exploration lives on in the Volvo Ocean Race.

Spanning every ocean, five continents and nine months, the Volvo Ocean Race is an exceptional test of sailing prowess and human endurance. It is, quite simply, the “Everest” of sailing. Competitors risk their very lives on the world’s most turbulent seas. Success demands a combination of untiring focus, precision performance and extreme mental and physical fortitude.

Volvo Ocean Race History

The Volvo Ocean Race traces its origins to the achievements of the great seafarers of bygone eras – fearless men who sailed the world’s oceans aboard square-rigged clipper ships more than a century ago. Even without organized racing, trading and fishing vessels won pride and reputation by sailing from port to port faster than their rivals. The passion that drove sailors along the web of trade routes, deep into the bleak latitudes of the Southern Ocean and around the world’s most dangerous capes is alive and well in the Volvo Ocean Race, the pinnacle of achievement in sailing.

In the wake of the remarkable solo voyages of Sir Francis Chichester and Sir Robin Knox-Johnston in the 1960s, an enthusiasm grew in international sailing circles for a race around the world involving fully crewed yachts. This enthusiasm soon bore fruit. In 1972, the British Royal Naval Sailing Association agreed to sponsor just such a contest.

The first edition of this sporting adventure was staged in 1973 as the Whitbread Round the World Race, the longest, most demanding and perilous sporting event the world had known. In fact, so dangerous was it, that the very first race claimed the lives of three competing sailors – unfortunately, this would not be the last time lives were lost during the race. While some called for the event to be abandoned, the race survived its detractors and came to be staged once every four years. It was run for the first time under its current banner, the Volvo Ocean Race, in 2001 and is now held once every three years.

It is, quite simply, the “Everest” of Sailing

—Knut Frostad, CEO of the Volvo Ocean Race

The first edition of this sporting adventure was staged in 1973 as the Whitbread Round the World Race, the longest, most demanding and perilous sporting event the world had known

IWC And The Volvo Ocean Race

In January 2011, IWC Schaffhausen was proud to announce its partnership with Volvo Ocean Race as race sponsor and Official Timekeeper for the last edition of the Volvo Ocean Race, 2011–2012. In this role, IWC Schaffhausen also sponsored the race’s prestigious 24-hour Speed Record Challenge. “With its pioneering and innovative attitude, the celebrated watch brand IWC Schaffhausen is a perfect match for the Volvo Ocean Race,” commented Knut Frostad, CEO of the Volvo Ocean Race.

The partnership between IWC Schaffhausen and the Volvo Ocean Race provides another opportunity to demonstrate our expertise in terms of engineering, technology and quality. Only a company able to set such high standards of precision, perfection and durability would have a chance of prevailing in arguably the toughest offshore race of them all. “IWC Schaffhausen and the Volvo Ocean Race share the same spirit: unique brands, known for inventiveness, technical excellence, outstanding craftsmanship, masculinity and adventure. The partnership evolved naturally, and IWC is very proud to participate in this global sporting event,” remarked Georges Kern, CEO of IWC Schaffhausen, citing IWC’s commitment.

Additionally, IWC Schaffhausen forged a partnership with Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority (ADTA) to become the first major sponsor of its Volvo Ocean Race 2011–2012 team, Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing.

—In the Volvo Ocean Race competitors push the limits of human achievement
—IWC CEO Georges Kern and Volvo Ocean Race CEO Knut Frostad seal their agreement
—A much appreciated rest for the crew

“We share a pioneering spirit based on the fundamentals of tradition,” said His Excellency Mubarak Al Muhairi, Director General, ADTA – Team Principal for Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing. “This is a coming together of two organizations that have a great deal in common, including the pursuit of perfection, strong community responsibility, unwavering commitment to sustainable business practices and the environment, as well as a desire to excel beyond expectation.”

The Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing team is the first Arabian participant with an Emirati crew member in the 39-year history of the Volvo Ocean Race. But it is also a first for IWC to have such a high-calibre sponsorship agreement in a team sport. We aimed to make use of this opportunity to increase awareness of the IWC brand in a market that is geographically important to us and to cement our image there.

The landmark deal, marking the luxury Swiss brand’s debut in top-tier global team sport sponsorship, ran throughout the entire Volvo Ocean Race 2011–2012 campaign, which ended in Galway, Ireland, after nine stopovers, including the UAE capital on New Year’s Day. The qualities on display in the competition reflect the principles that guide our company. At IWC, we extend the limits of artistry and craftsmanship; in the Volvo Ocean Race, competitors push the limits of human achievement.

This is a coming together of two organisations that have a great deal in common, including the pursuit of perfection, strong community responsibility, unwavering commitment to sustainable business practices and the environment, and a desire to excel beyond expectation

Volvo Ocean Race 2011–2012

During the nine months of the last Volvo Ocean Race, the teams sailed over 39,000 nautical miles over the world’s most treacherous seas. Beginning in Alicante, Spain, in October 2011 and finishing in Galway, Ireland, in July 2012, the race travelled to eight different stopovers along the way.

The race used a high-scoring system, and Groupama sailing team claimed the trophy after securing the most points at the end of the event; similar to the way an overall winner is determined in the Formula One racing season. Points were awarded for two different race segments: an in-port race and a leg race.

In-port race winners were awarded points on the following basis:

1. First place – 6 points
2. Second place – 5 points
3. Third place – 4 points
4. Fourth place – 3 points
5. Fifth place – 2 points
6. Sixth place – 1 point

Leg-race winners were awarded a greater number of points than in-port race winners, due to the more challenging nature of a leg win:

1. First place – 30 points
2. Second place – 25 points
3. Third place – 20 points
4. Fourth place – 15 points
5. Fifth place – 10 points
6. Sixth place – 5 points

All the boats maintained a cracking pace. Small wonder: the men on board are among the best sailors in the world.

For this edition of the race, six teams came together to face the monumental challenge: Team Telefónica, Groupama sailing team, Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, Puma Ocean Racing powered by Berg, Camper with Emirates Team New Zealand, and Team Sanya.

Each of the six competing boats had a sailing team of 11 professional crew members. The race required consummate skill, physical endurance and competitive spirit as they raced day and night, with some legs lasting over 20 days. In the Volvo Ocean Race, each sailor has a specific role on board. Included in the crew on each boat in 2011–12 were three sailors with medical training, a sailmaker, an engineer and a dedicated media crew member.

During the Volvo Ocean Race the crews experience life at the extreme. With no fresh food on board, crews live entirely on freeze-dried fare. Temperatures on deck may fluctuate from –5 to +40 degrees Celsius. Each sailor is only allowed one change of clothing. Crews trust their lives to the strength of their boat and the skill of their skipper and often experience hunger and sleep deprivation. The race is the ultimate mix of world-class sporting competition and on-the-edge adventure.

The IWC-sponsored Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing team also felt the full impact of the forces of nature. “It’s amazing how quickly your priorities can change from racing to survival,” admitted skipper Ian Walker. “One minute we were riding the back of a front, doing 500 miles a day towards Cape Horn and getting a real taste of the Southern Ocean; the next we were genuinely concerned for our own safety as we sat with a damaged hull in freezing conditions, 1,700 miles from the nearest landfall.” The crew created quite a stir when the news emerged as to how they had managed to make the damaged vessel seaworthy again. “The repair involved drilling through the hull and bolting the hull laminate back together. We spent the best part of 5 hours hove to with the boat on its side to keep the water off the port side while the work was done in 30-knot winds and big swells.”

—The highly coveted IWC 24-hour Speed Record Challenge trophy
—CAMPER, winner of the IWC 24-hour Speed Record Challenge, sporting their new timepieces, the Portuguese Yacht Club Chronograph Edition “Volvo Ocean Race 2011–2012”

The Results

“The Volvo Ocean Race 2011–2012 was not only the closest race in the 39-year history of the event but also the most successful,” commented CEO Knut Frostad, “with hundreds of thousands of fans visiting Galway in Ireland for a buoyant finale and outstanding growth across media platforms.”

For the first time in the race’s 39-year history, four boats were still in with a realistic chance of winning with a matter of days remaining. The high-tech third-generation Volvo Open 70s made offshore racing appear like match racing and time and again, thousands of miles of ocean racing came down to minutes and seconds at the finish line.

The sailors pushed themselves and their yachts to the absolute brink, breaking bones, boats and records, while taking on hurricane-force winds, mountainous seas and extreme temperatures.

French sailing team Groupama claimed an overall victory on their maiden appearance in arguably the world’s longest and toughest sporting event.
IWC-sponsored Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing placed fifth overall after winning three in-port races and one offshore leg.

Puma skipper Ken Read reflected on the accomplishment of finishing the Volvo Ocean Race.

“As athletes in a high-profile sport like this, we cherish the opportunity to race against the best and that’s what we’ve all done here for nine months,” he said. “There’s always a winner, there’s always a loser, but at the same time there’s the accomplishment of actually finishing this race.”


Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, IWC’s Team in the Volvo Ocean Race, sailed into yachting history books last night as it became the first Arabian entry to complete the gruelling, nine-month round the world odyssey, after placing sixth in the final short sprint from Lorient, France to Galway, Ireland – the ...

—With an event of this magnitude, you can imagine the watch to accompany it will also be something special
Portuguese Yacht Club Chronograph

—Reference 3902

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A Trophy Made Of Titanium

As the race’s Official Timekeeper and sponsor of the 24-hour Speed Record Challenge, IWC not only awarded a trophy to the team completing the greatest distance over 24 hours in each leg, but also launched a special-edition watch. The much-coveted prize for the team that was fastest overall over a 24-hour stretch during the entire race was the Portuguese Yacht Club Chronograph Edition “Volvo Ocean Race 2011-2012”. These highly functional timepieces from Schaffhausen, perfectly created down to the tiniest detail, were presented at the formal prize-giving ceremony to the members of Camper with Emirates Team New Zealand. With their yacht, the team covered an impressive 565.824 nautical miles over a period of 24 hours during leg 8.

A watch designed to pay tribute to the “Everest” of sailing and the achievements of the extreme sportsmen taking part calls for technical qualities that withstand immense stresses and strains. The Portuguese Yacht Club Chronograph Edition “Volvo Ocean Race 2011–2012” is a functional, highly reliable and elegant sports watch made of titanium that has all the precision of nautical instruments in its make-up and has been created to perfection, even to the tiniest detail. With water-resistance to 6 bar and a screw-in crown with crown protection, the watch is rugged enough to take anything in its stride. It is equipped with the IWC-manufactured 89361-calibre movement, one of the most robust and advanced chronograph movements, and features a flyback function as well as an analogue display with two hands in a subdial for recording long periods of time. The watch is secured to the wearer’s wrist with a black rubber strap with a folding clasp. The sapphire-glass back provides a clear view of IWC’s double-pawl winding system, while the engraving “Edition Volvo Ocean Race 2011–2012” leaves no doubt as to whom this masterpiece is dedicated. Luminescent hands and indices combined with the large, well-organized dial, contemporary design and forward-looking mechanics make this timepiece the perfect chronograph.

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