Thursday, October 2, 2008

Volvo Ocean Race: Starts tomorrow

Photo by Dave Kneale/Volvo Ocean Race
The fleet of Volvo Open 70's start their practice in-port race in Alicante, Spain. The real in-port race takes place on Saturday 4th October and will see the first points on the scoreboard of the Volvo Ocean Race 2009-09.

Bouwe Bekking on the second generation V070
The Volvo Ocean Race 2005/06 was the first edition for a new class of boats: the Volvo Open 70 or VO70 for short. Bouwe is one person who knows 'the beast'. In April 2005, he broke the 24-hour speed record for a monohull logging 530 nautical miles and went on to sail more than 15,000 nautical miles as part of the team build-up programme. During the race itself he faced all sorts of problems before being forced to abandon the VO70 movistar in the North Atlantic Ocean in May 2006.

For the VOR 2008/09, the lessons learnt during the 05/06 race have led to the development of a second generation VO70. This evolution is based on the experiences of the crews or test pilots of the original design and the race organisers - the guardians of the rule. The VO70 design rule sets various parameters within which teams strive to find the optimum package. The changes brought in for this race have been publicly stated to "safeguard the sta tus of the world's fastest ocean-going monohull."

Specific changes include: maximum keel, fin and bulb weight of 7,400 kg - compared to a "no max weight limit" previously; the overall weight range of the boat is between 13.86 and 14 tonnes compared to the wider 12-14 tonnes before. Other amendments include enabling all spinnakers to be furled and banning the use of spinnaker poles. The stated aim with these changes has been to reinforce the safety and reliability of the VO70, without serious performance penalty.

One of the big questions to be answered on 4th October - the start of the Volvo Ocean Race 2008/09 - will be how different are these 2nd generation VO70s compared to the VOR 2005/06 first generation. Bouwe is quite certain of one thing - they will be fast, "when I first saw the theoretical numbers from the designers I knew we had something very special compared to the previous boat. And, so far the new boats have been as fast as we expected them to be, and I can't wait to line up for the first time with the competition, for then we will really know just how fast!" -Read more...