A foiling future for the Volvo Ocean Race

18 May

There was a much hyped, big announcement this morning about the future of the Volvo Ocean Race and the announcement lived up to the hype; at least I think that it did. The big question to be answered was would future races be raced in  monohulls or multihulls and I think that the event CEO Mark Turner split the issue quite nicely when he stated, “We had a lot of debate about multihull versus monohull – strong arguments in both directions. We decided on three hulls – a monohull plus catamaran.” What he means is that the offshore part of the event will still be raced in monohulls, but the increasingly popular inshore races will be mini America’s Cup events. In other words raced stadium style in foiling catamarans. While I have been very vocal about switching to multihulls I think that this announcement is probably right on track. Turner left open the possibility for multihulls in the future and even hinted at them being along the lines of the French Ultime class. In other words massive multihulls that can knock off close to a 1,000 miles in a single day. Now that’s what I would like to see and I am sure that one day it will happen.

If they had announced unimaginative slab-sided 60-foot monohulls for future races this would be a very different article. I have pointed out numerous times over the years that there is nothing cutting edge about the current VOR boats especially when compared to the IMOCA 60’s. A solo sailor racing an IMOCA 60 has been able to knock off as many miles in a 24-hour period as a fully crewed VOR 65 which I don’t think I need to point out is also a larger boat. IMOCA is where the cutting edge has been for the past two decades and I am thrilled that Turner and his team have been reading my blogs and taken my points to heart. The new boat, which will be introduced in 2019, will essentially be an IMOCA 60 on steroids. Fast, foiling and sexy as heck. And better yet, as the VOR press release points out, “the boat will have an option built in to the design for the platform to be convertible, relatively quickly and inexpensively, to a short-handed rules-compliant IMOCA boat, able to compete in other major events on the IMOCA circuit such as the solo Vendée Globe and two-up Barcelona World Race.”  Now that’s smart thinking and better yet they have engaged the extremely talented French designer Guillaume Verdier to draw the boat. He is an incredibly innovative thinker and I can’t wait to see what he and his design team comes up with.


None of this should really come as a surprise. Mark Turner made a name for himself when he managed Ellen MacArthur’s Vendée Globe campaign back in 2000/01. He knows what an extraordinary event the Vendée is and how it has captured the imagination of the sailing public not only because of the exceptional sailors but also because of their amazing boats. Mark Turner also created the idea of stadium-style fast paced inshore racing in catamarans with his event the Extreme Sailing Series. The Extreme Sailing Series recently changed to foiling catamarans and remains one of the most exciting sailing events anywhere.

So that’s the news regarding boats but there was a lot more divulged at the announcement. There is one piece of news that I really like and that is a move toward Zero Emission races in the future. The technology is already there to use solar and wind power only for the boats, but their vision is to go beyond that. From the VOR press release. “The race has three pillars of action on sustainability – to reduce its own footprint, to maximize its impact using its global communications platform, and to leave a positive legacy wherever it goes.”  All worthy goals in my opinion. When you participate in a sport like yacht racing you become one with the elements, or at least you should because that’s what it’s all about. These elements, wind and water, are slowly becoming trashed and it’s time to take note and do something about it. I am glad that the team leading the VOR have taken note and taken action.

I have been critical of the Volvo Ocean Race over the years and feel that I have earned the right to do so having participated in three races back when it was known as the Whitbread Round the World Race. There is no criticism from me today. These are bold steps that will hopefully reinvigorate the event and attract that all important ingredient; sponsors. Without sponsors you have no entries and without entries you have no event. Onward and upward and congratulation Mark Turner and your team on taking some action and being clear eyed about the future of our sport.



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Brian Hancock – owner Great Circle Sails

This article was syndicated from Great Circle Sails Blog

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