How far back should we go? To the legendary Portuguese explorers who through guts and drive discovered new worlds and forever changed history? That's probably a bit far back as a voyage of discovery in a Caravela hardly resembles a modern day global ocean race, but the spirit and intent are still there. That pioneering spirit of race competitors and the spiritual voyage within as men and women seek to challenge themselves are traits as old as time. So in some ways the Portugal Ocean Race has been 500 years in the making and this new incarnation is just a rebirth of that old ambition and resolve.
Practically speaking the Portugal Ocean Race has been around since a short conversation that took place in 2006 ago between Ricardo Diniz, a sailor and entrepreneur from Portugal and the two founders of a new global sailing event named at the time the Global Ocean Challenge. Race organizers Josh Hall and Brian Hancock were looking for a home for their race and Ricardo caught the scent in the breeze. As someone who is proudly Portuguese and always looking for new ways to involve Portugal on the international stage, Ricardo placed an international call. An hour later he had convinced the event organizers to consider Portugal for the start and finish of their race.
Next came an invitation from Lisbon Tourism. The idea of a brand new global sailing event tickled those in the office of the mayor charged with revitalizing the tourism and sport industry. An offer was extended; four days in Lisbon as a guest of the city to see what the city could offer in terms of venue, infrastructure and that all important ingredient, charm.
Hancock and Hall were impressed. Lisbon was everything they could have hoped for as a home for their race. The waters were perfect, the city spectacular, the people friendly and excited. By this time there was growing interest in the race and competitors from around the world were signing on for the inaugural event. Unfortunately a city and large as Lisbon could not move as fast as a new fast-paced event, but Portimão, on the Algarve coast, could. Already partners of Ricardo's projects for many years, Portimão was a smaller, more dynamic city that had grown in global stature through hosting some of the world's premiers sporting events such as the P1 Powerboat Championships and the Audi Med Cup. It took one phone call from Ricardo to the vice Mayor explaining the opportunity. It was his ultimate back up plan. And it worked. A quick airport meeting a few days later and we had a deal. Portimão was proud to be the host and main sponsor for the Global Ocean Challenge. The name was changed to the Portimão Global Ocean Race and the rest, as they say, is history.
The inaugural global ocean race for Class 40s finished in June 2009. Hall decided to do his own thing whilst Ricardo and Brian continued to build on what was now a solid, trusting partnership with Portimão. The Mayor and his team were excited to carry on with what they now rightly considered "Their Race" and discussions began about a second race 6 months before the first edition had even finished! With a refreshed team, Brian Hancock and Ricardo Diniz hired Larry Rosenfeld as CEO and the Portugal Ocean Race was announced in September 2009, in a formal Press Conference held in Peter's Café Sport in Lisbon.
Since then we have been working tirelessly, cementing support across Portugal including Algarve Tourism and Portugal Tourism. For months we have been quietly working without fanfare, building day by day what is set to be a fantastic event that truly reflects and honours the spirit of the Portuguese people and the wishes of the global sailing community.
Portimão are onboard for the next TWO editions of the race which is being funded by a cross section of government and corporate interests. The Portugal Ocean Race will also offer a face to the world through the pioneering spirit of the sailors who join us for the second running of the event. Today's history is just tomorrow ideas filtered through the passage of time.