Foil-assisted 60ft offshore monohulls, flying inshore catamarans, and tearing up the conventional round the world route map are among the major changes announced for the 2019 Volvo Ocean Race
Volvo Ocean Race organisers promised the most radical shake-up of the race since its inception in 1973, and the raft of changes announced today for the 2019 edition will bring about some fundamental shifts in what the Volvo Ocean Race represents.
A huge topic of discussion has been the choice of new yacht class, which organisers had previously confirmed would be a one-design by Guillaume Verdier, but not revealed whether it would be a monohull or multihull format. Volvo Ocean Race CEO Mark Turner has confirmed that the ocean legs will be sailed in a foil-assisted 60-footer, in many ways the least surprising announcement of the day following the adoption of foils by the IMOCA 60 class over the past two years.
More intriguingly, Turner now sees potential for the new Volvo one-design 60-footers to potentially compete alongside the IMOCA fleet. Speaking exclusively to Yachting World in Paris ahead of today’s announcement, he explained: “We found ourselves looking at the fact that the best boat for the Volvo Ocean Race, which is a combination of performance, safety, technology development, actually can also be used as a platform – with a change of rig and keel – on other circuits. That’s a bonus to what we’re doing.”
While the new one-design will not be specifically designed to fit the IMOCA box rule, Turner says that the wealth of data and experience Verdier and others have in designing and building foiling 60-footers will be invaluable, and was a key reason in not going for a larger design such as a 70-footer.
Assuming that the IMOCA class rule in, say, 2020-21, remains open to ex-Volvo Ocean Race boats, this plan achieves several things which fit with recurring themes in Turner’s new vision for the race, including improved sustainability credentials – building large composite yachts with a short shelf-life no longer sits well with the event’s green ethos – as well as giving sponsors and sailors wider platforms with more longevity to promote their message across, and joining some dots in the sport.
Meanwhile a second, inshore fully foiling multihull class has also been announced, between 32 and 50ft long. This will be raced at stopovers by – at least very largely – the same crew who are racing the offshore leg to prevent teams from forming two separate squads. Again this will be a one-design, taking the best elements from existing foiling multihull classes, such as the GC32 and rapidly developing AC50s.
Eight 60-footers will be built, and the multihull one-design drawings will be put out to tender, a process starting this week.
The changes most likely to upset purists will be major alterations to the traditional round the world route. Details are yet to be confirmed, but Turner has revealed that they are considering a radical overhaul of the course, starting with plans to run events more frequently, through to routes that include everything from around-the-world non-stop, to starting and finishing in a different hemisphere or continent, and even a non-stop race around the bottom of the earth.