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Volvo Ocean Race makes several changes for 2017-18 edition

Associated Press Associated Press 25/11/2016

ALICANTE, Spain — The Volvo Ocean Race has announced several changes for the next edition of the round-the-word race, which will start in October 2017.

Among them are double points on long trans-oceanic legs and various bonus points, new crew-size rules that encourage teams to have more women sailors, on-board reporters that can rotate among the boats and a new route that includes more Southern Ocean racing. At close to 45,000 nautical miles, it will be the longest edition of the marquee offshore race.

The change in the scoring system will encourage strategic risk-taking by the teams, designed to open up the competition in an era of close one design racing. That will give teams an incentive to gamble more often to split the fleet.

Double points will be awarded for the two Southern Ocean legs, from Cape Town to Hong Kong, and Auckland to Itajai, Brazil; and the North Atlantic leg from Newport, Rhode Island, to Cardiff, Wales.

Additionally, a bonus point will be awarded to the winner of each leg, to the first team to round Cape Horn in a nod to the mythical significance of this turning point in the race, and to the team with the best total elapsed time overall.

On the crew front, all-male teams will be limited to seven sailors, one fewer than in 2014-15. Mixed teams will be given a significant numerical advantage. Combinations can include seven men and either one or two women, five men and five women, seven women and one or two men, or 11 women.

"If female offshore sailors want to compete at the same level as the best in the world then they need to train and race with the best," said Ian Walker, the winning skipper in the 2014-15 race. "It would be very hard to compete with only seven people on a Volvo Ocean 65 against teams of eight or nine. This new rule will almost certainly force teams to hire women and that will create a great platform for learning."

Team SCA's all-female crew finished third in the In-Port Race series in the last VOR and became the first to win an offshore leg in 25 years. But it still saw a ceiling in its overall offshore performance without being able to learn from the more experienced sailors.

In the last race, onboard reporters were assigned to each team. In the next edition, a team of on-board reporters will be created that can move from boat to boat on leg to leg, balancing both integrity and trust.

As part of mandatory qualifiers, the fleet will sail in the Rolex Fastnet Race, one of the most revered and feared tests in sailing, from England to the Fastnet Rock off the southwest coast of Ireland and back to England. The Volvo fleet will then race from Plymouth, England, to Lisbon to complete Leg 0. The fleet will then sail a new prologue from Lisbon to Alicante, Spain.

In other changes, sailors can post social media updates direct from the oceans for the first time;

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