One hull or two?
That’s the debate that has raged around the future design of Volvo Ocean Race boats – should they be monohull or multihull?
In the end organizers have opted for both in a radical development for sailing’s premier around-the-world race.
After the 2017-18 edition, the event will use 60ft “foil-assisted” monohulls for the offshore legs with a 32-50ft foiling catamaran for the in-port races.
“Three hulls, but not what you might have imagined,” Volvo Ocean Race chief executive Mark Turner told a news conference in Gothenburg Thursday.
The race, which began its life as the Whitbread Round the World Race in 1973, features mixed professional crews sailing around the world in a multi-stopover format.
The use of hydrofoils to lift the hull out of the water and increase speed has taken sailing by storm in recent years.
Foiling was introduced to the America’s Cup in 2013, while the recent Vendee Globe — won in record time by Armel Le Cleac’h — featured a handful of foil-assisted monohulls.
‘Tested to their limits’
The introduction of foiling multihulls for the inshore races — similar to the Extreme Sailing Series and the modern America’s Cup — is designed to boost excitement levels for spectators and further test the teams’ all-round ability.
Organizers will commission eight of each boat for lease to teams, with the budgets remaining at current levels of about 10-12 million euros over two years.
While the new monohull will be strictly “one-design”, there will be plenty of “tinkerability” in the set-up, say race officials.
“The Volvo Ocean Race has always been the ultimate test of a team in professional sport and with these changes — collectively the most radical since the race began in 1973 — we are taking it up another level,” added Turner.
“We are staying true to our DNA as an ocean race but we will now also be testing the world’s best sailors to their limits inshore as well.”
Organizers “came very close” to adopting multihulls — possibly foiling — for both offshore and inshore legs, but Turner admitted it could happen in the future.
Giant multihulls are often used for transatlantic races and record attempts such as the Jules Verne Trophy for the fastest non-stop time around-the-world, held by the 105ft trimaran IDEC SPORT in 40 days 23 hours.
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‘Lap of Antarctica’
Traditionally, the race has taken place every three years but following the next edition which finishes in 2018, organizers plan to have race activity every year and are considering moving towards a two-year cycle.
There are also plans to shake up the routing in the future, with ideas such as a non-stop leg around Antarctica or even a non-stop lap of the planet being mooted.
However, the race says it will commit to visiting North America, South America, Australasia, Greater China, and at least five major European markets at least once every two editions to provide commercial clarity for sponsors.
The 2014-2015 version of the race was won by Englishman Ian Walker and his crew on Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, a one-design non-foiling Volvo Ocean 65 which will be used in the next edition of the race.
The 2017-2018 Volvo Ocean Race starts from Alicante on October 22 and will visit a total of 12 host cities on six continents.
The race will cover more than 46,000 nautical miles (83,000 kms), finishing in The Hague at the end of June 2018.