One of the most famous Swedish sporting events finally has a Swede among the participants.
The 2017-2018 Volvo Ocean Race already had a handful of Danish sailors, but it wasn’t until three-time race veteran Martin Strömberg joined Turn the Tide on Plastic, a yacht racing under the United Nations flag, that the toughest competition in off-shore sailing finally had a Swedish racer. Strömberg was part of the race-winning Dongfeng syndicate in 2014-2015, and was a crewman on Ericsson 3 under famed Swedish skipper Magnus Olsson in 2008-2009 and Groupama in 2011-2012.

“I have sailed around the world three times, I have won the race and yet here I am back for a fourth time,” he said in a press release on the Volvo Ocean Race Web site, “I am back because it’s the toughest, most challenging and most fun event in the sport. I’m an athlete – I want to win!”


British female offshore skipper Dee Caffari leads the Plastic team. Caffari is the only female to sail solo around the world in both directions, east and west, and was part of the Team SCA squad in the 2014-15 Volvo. Strömberg joins the half-female, half-male international crew as watch captain, helmsman and trimmer. While his sailing ability is crucial to the chances of Plastic grabbing a podium finish, the crew, most of them less than 30 years old, Strömberg’s experience should prove even more important.
“Martin is an experienced sailor who brings a wealth of knowledge to our younger team,” Caffari told the race website. “With three Volvo Ocean Race’s under his belt he knows the demands of the race better than anyone. His experience coaching and developing young sailors will add further balance to our team and will be excellent assistance for me as skipper. I’m excited to have him join us.”

Glue of the team
Strömberg has earned a reputation for having a calm persona and a quick wit, and his crewmates often describe him as the glue of the team. He is the most experienced sailor on Plastic, graduating from Sweden's International Sailing Academy after high school, before travelling around the world competing in various international environments. When he joined Ericsson 3 for the 2008 race, Strömberg had the chance to learn from Olsson, who was one of the most accomplished Volvo racers and was passionate about developing younger sailors. Strömberg’s teammate on Ericsson 3, navigator Aksel Magdahl, said Olsson had a way of leading his team that made everyone feel important, no matter how tall the odds.
“Magnus had a bit of a different take on things and prioritized a ‘happy boat’ – that was one of his favorite expressions,” Magdahl said. “He knew a ‘happy boat’ would be a winner on the long run. But we did well in the race and the team stuck together, something Magnus’ personality played a major part in, and we came out of it as good friends.”
Now, Strömberg says it is his turn to pass on the lesson he has learned just as Olsson did. “It’s about bringing opportunities for young sailors to achieve their lifetime goal, and we have to give them the opportunities to become better.”

Guiding Mission
Turn the Time on Plastic is more than just a racing yacht. The team’s guiding mission is to amplify the United Nations’ “Clean Seas: Turn the Tide on Plastic campaign throughout the eight months of the race. The focus is on removing the plastic “footprint” humans have created in the oceans, which threatens to destroy fisheries, poison species and permanently harm the world’s waters. Strömberg said it is a message he believes must get out. “For me, Turn the Tide on Plastic is a project that needs to happen for the well-being of our planet… [Sustainability] can’t just be about picking up rubbish, it’s about what we as human beings are putting out there.”
Turn the Tide on Plastic is one of seven teams making the round-the-world circuit. Dutch team AkzoNobel, which features Martine Grael, daughter Danish-Brazilian skipper Torben Grael who won the race in 2008-2009 as skipper of Ericsson 4, Dongfeng from China, Mapfre of Spain, Danish-American yacht Vestas 11th Hour Racing, Team Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag from Hong Kong and Team Brunei round out the field.
The race sets off from Alicante, Spain, on October 22, sailing for Lisbon, Portugal. Leg Two takes the racers from Lisbon to Cape Town, South Africa. Leg Three runs from Cape Town to Melbourne, Australia. Leg Four heads to Hong Kong, Leg Five to Guangzhou, China and back to Hong Kong. Leg Six runs from Hong Kong to Auckland, New Zealand. Leg Seven is the longest and traverses the Southern Ocean from Auckland to Itajai, Brazil. Leg Eight takes the racers to Newport, R.I. Leg Nine runs to Cardiff, Wales. Leg Ten goes to Goteborg and the race finishes in The Hague, Netherlands.

By Chipp Reid