For the seven teams in the 2004-5 Volvo Ocean Race, life in the New York Race Village ranged from tranquil to hectic. Absent from major activity was the crew of Movistar, so perhaps the reports of them taking a 2 hr time penalty were premature.

For the top finishing teams, there was little on the work list for the crews to accomplish, but the further down the quay, the more frantic the effort was. Ericsson and Brunel were hard at work repairing sails, while on ABN AMRO 2, the “kids” were tasked to winch repair service.

For all of the teams, however, there was one important task to be done here in New York; sponsor fulfillment. ABN Amro had perhaps one of the biggest public areas, including a full motion sailing simulator .

For professional sailor Billy Liberty of Eastern Connecticut, the stopover and simulator were a perfect excuse to spend a day with his 8 year old daughter, Simone. “Wow, that was cool!” exclaimed Simone after exiting the ride, drier than most of the other passengers. Her father was equally impressed. “It’s wild to see how fast these boats really are.” said Liberty, who just returned from competing in Antigua Sailing Week. When asked how the simulator compared to real life, Liberty said, “The simulator is great. It’s much better than bringing my daughter to the [Gulf] Stream.”

Just behind the ABN Amro display, schoolchildren from PS 42 and 89 in New York, many of them adorned with Pirates of the Caribbean scarves, were battering Volvo crew members with questions. Brasil ’s Torben Grael, ABN 2’s Luke Molloy, and Brunel’s Graeme Taylor candidly answered such questions as “How do you go to the bathroom?” and “What happens if you sink?” While the children were learning that Torben Grael would be playing tennis if he weren’t a professional sailor, Pirates of the Caribbean were out on a sponsor sail in New York Harbor.

It is these ports of call that dictate the ultimate success of the Ericsson Racing Team. In a day designed to entertain employees and customers alike, Ericsson CEO Carl-Henric Svanberg took some time out to discuss the corporate rationale for becoming a title sponsor for a Volvo Open 70 yacht. To Ericsson, the decision to sponsor a yacht was driven by a need to meet their customers in an informal setting. To that end, Mr. Svanburg estimates that over 4,000 high level customers will have been seen throughout the course of the race. Those customers will also average 2 days at Ericsson functions, compared to an average of 2 hours for a typical business function. The race also allows Ericsson to showcase new technology to customers in a new and innovative way.

“We recently had a stockholders meeting at a football stadium in Sweden, that’s how big it was.” Mr. Svanberg says. “During the meeting, we were able to link up live to the boat, while they were sailing in the Doldrums, and have the crew answer shareholders questions live while racing. That was a powerful message to our shareholders, to be able to showcase our technology in such an amazing way.”
Unfortunately for team Ericsson, things haven’t always gone so well for them at sea. When asked whether they had to do the design over again if there should be one rudder or two, crew member Ken Read pushed forward two water glasses while exclaiming “Two!” Even Farr Yacht Design’s Russell Bowler, who was in town as well, was nodding his head in the affirmative. While admitting that a late start has cost the team in the overall standings, Mr. Svanberg doesn’t believe that this has kept Ericsson from reaching its corporate goals. “In this race, if your goal is brand exposure, you need to be leading to stay in the press. If your goal is commercial results, then the success of your race is spending time with your customers.”

Ryan O'Grady

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