As the Volvo Ocean Race kicks off in Spain at the end of October, two dozen operators from across the continent will also head to Alicante to compete in a trial of skill and precision – the Operators Club 2011 European Final.
The Volvo Ocean Race, the world’s most gruelling sailing challenge, is a test of strategy, skill and expertise. So it’s appropriate that the Operators Club 2011 European Final – a contest that uses those same characteristics – is being held in conjunction with the race in this year’s home port of Alicante, Spain.
For three days in late October, Europe’s top 24 machine operators – from Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Sweden and Spain – will compete in a series of challenges designed to test their skills. Using machines from the Volvo Construction Equipment range, challenges include using an excavator to pass a hanging weight along an obstacle course without touching any of the obstacles, negotiating a slalom course backwards in an articulated hauler, or creating a hole for a golf course from a pile of sand using a compact excavator equipped with the highly versatile Steelwrist tiltrotator attachment — all in a race against time.
“The Operators Club Final challenges operators to show what they’re made of,” says Steve Skinner, Volvo Construction Equipment’s European corporate communications manager who is responsible for expanding the Operators Club throughout Europe. “It’s a head-to-head test of precision operation against the clock, and that’s a compelling recipe.”
This year’s Final will enjoy a high profile at the Volvo Ocean Race: the contest will be broadcast in the middle of the race village at the Alicante port, and finalists will compete in the middle of the village on the last day of the competition. And the ultimate winner of the competition will board one of the yachts to participate in the Volvo Ocean Race In-Port prologue race – the first opportunity for the public to see the Volvo Ocean Race competitors in action.
The Operators Club originated 10 years ago in Germany as a way to focus on and show appreciation for often-overlooked operators. Other countries soon followed – the Club has proven to be especially popular in the Benelux countries. Across Europe, more than 10,000 operators are card-carrying members of the Club, and it is hoped that all European countries will participate in the program within the next two years.
“We’re really seeing the benefits of starting up the Operators Club,” Steve says. “It’s a win-win for dealers and operators — it provides a good networking environment for operators, who get the opportunity to try the latest machines and attachments from Volvo Construction Equipment. The challenges introduce an element of rivalry and inter-country competition, which pushes the operators to both improve their skills in a safe environment and master the full potential of Volvo CE products, which ultimately pays dividends in their day-to-day work too. And dealers benefit from the operators’ increased awareness of and interest in Volvo CE machines and services.”
It is hoped that holding the 2011 Final in association with the Volvo Ocean Race will bring about greater awareness of the club and encourage more operators to test their skills against the best.
“The operators taking part in the 2011 European Final are the cream of the crop,” Steve says. “To be in the final 24 is no small achievement. They should all be proud of their success, and I look forward to seeing something exceptional in Alicante. I also expect that we’ll see an even more intense competition for places at next year’s Final.
Picture 1: Reigning Operators Club Champion, Othmar Pletzer from Austria, uses a Volvo compact excavator to move a football with his bucket during one of the Operators Club 2011 national heats.
Picture 2: The operator of an EC290C excavator attempts to complete an Operators Club challenge by dropping a weight into a tube.
Picture 3: An operator focuses on completing a challenge.
Picture 4: The port in Alicante, Spain, will be the setting for the final challenges in the Operators Club 2011 European Final on October 29 – as well as the starting point for the 2011-2012 Volvo Ocean Race.