NickBice, technical director of the Volvo Ocean Race fleet, which is based in the Portuguese capital, talked about how The Boatyard - the centralized mobile shipyard of the race, which not only moves around the world for the regatta, but also deals with the refitting of the fleet for the next Volvo Ocean Race season, which starts already in October 2017.
Nick is a well-known professional in his field. He has been on the Volvo Ocean Race twice - in 2005/06 with ABN AMRO II crew and in 2008/09 with Delta Lloyd. The 2005/06 regatta was particularly tough: during the circumnavigation, Bays' crew lost one crew member and saved the other competitors, the Movistar team. In addition to circumnavigating the world, the tireless Australian has competed in two marathons and three IRONMAN races.
Few things can intimidate Nick Buys, but even for him, the challenges posed by the Volvo Ocean Race organisers to re-equip the fleet are a huge challenge. Anna Zykova from Matrioshka Sailing creative agency talked to the technical director of the circumnavigation on this topic.
How are things at the Volvo Ocean Race repair shop?
We have a pretty big team here in Lisbon. We have about 35 people. We are now starting the 4th phase of the fleet upgrade. This means that we will be repairing four boats at the same time. Each boat takes approximately 12 weeks to refit plus branding.
What is the main difference between the renovation of the fleet?
The biggest difference that viewers will notice is how the Volvo Ocean 65 boats will look externally. Each boat will be completely repainted. Each boat will have a new branding in accordance with the new sponsors. So externally they are practically new boats.
Internally, all systems will be upgraded to make sure that the yachts are ready for the next Volvo Ocean Race season.
So that's a big challenge for us. The Volvo Ocean 65 boats are well proven and we are confident that they will get around the world once more without any durability issues.
How will one-way content be shared from team members to their social networks?
We have an open door policy «» , we are happy to share what we do here, we are completely open to the public. That includes our interaction with the teams, with journalists and with the general public, so we actively share what's going on as part of the fleet renewal. We have had 20 people from the local yachting school come to see how the workshop is set up and what is going on and how things are progressing at the Volvo Ocean Race while we are in Lisbon.
The same principle we have in communication with the teams during the race. We want to get even more raw material. This will be done by means of the «Team Communicator» - a device similar to «iPhone», which will allow the team on board to send messages on Twitter, upload photos on Instagram, access to Facebook and publish material directly from the boat. Of course, some level of filtering is expected. But we want to get as much «raw» material from participants as possible. We're pretty sure we haven't really told the story of the race yet.
«Team Communicator» is a smartphone. It can be on your arm or somewhere else on your body so you can take a quick photo and send it to Facebook. We're thinking of doing a summary report of the number of likes or reactions to a photo on Instagram, Twitter or maybe even Snapchat.
On-board reporters (OBRs) will still be on the boats - it's already a traditional part of every regatta. But this time they will not be crew members, but will work for the Volvo Ocean Race. Therefore, we will probably rotate them. Their task is not to let the camera out of their hands, get as much «raw» material as possible and send it to the head office.
Any news on team participation in the next race?
There will be 8 teams on the start line. We already have 7 Volvo Ocean 65 boats and we are building another one, so we have some exciting news in the coming months.
What's new about women's participation in the next Volvo Ocean Race season?
The legacy that the SCA team has left cannot go unnoticed. They have created a unique team that has undergone excellent training with the best sailing professionals. So, thanks to the project, there is now a whole squad of talented female sailors. Looking at the Olympic classes, we also see quite a few great female athletes. So there are enough women in sailing to compete in a race of this level. I sincerely hope that teams will take the opportunity to invite women into their crews. It will be interesting to see both all-male and mixed crews at the start.
This is an opportunity for us to leave our mark on the industry and reflect what is happening in this area and the rest of the world. The women have a well-deserved right to participate in the Volvo Ocean Race. And under the leadership of Mark Turner and the entire parent team, we want to continue the work of Team SCA. We will make an effort to ensure that the women are part of the Volvo Ocean Race.
And how do you personally feel about women's participation in sailing teams?
And I would absolutely go into the race in a mixed crew, having that opportunity. I think it creates a great atmosphere! Having worked in mixed coastal crews in the past, I still always welcome women in our business. It is a very male-dominated sport and the men dominate both on the water and on land. But in recent years, I've seen better interaction on shore teams when women are present. I would broadcast the same to the on board teams as well.
Are multihulls and hydrofoils the future of the Volvo Ocean Race?
This is being discussed for future seasons of the race. It is just part of my tasks to determine what the Volvo Ocean Race will look like in the next 10 years.
Whether they will be installed on monohulls or multihulls is still a question. We may build a monohull specially for our race on the wings. It is already a reality to talk about solo circumnavigations on multihulls with hydrofoils. Would we want to be a part of it? That is the question for now. Given that a large part of the race will take place in the Southern Ocean, our task is to ensure the safety of the teams. But risk is always present, and that's what the Volvo Ocean Race is all about!
Is the Volvo Ocean 65 safer than the Volvo Open 70?
Yes, it is safer in many of its technical features. For example, it gets a lot less water in it than the Volvo Open 70. So, let's see who can get the most out of it! And survive:)
What's your daily motivation?
What we are doing here in Lisbon is a serious challenge! The race itself, in which I have participated twice, is also a huge challenge. The IRONMAN marathons and races I've done, they're about the same thing.
If you were to go around the world together now, who would you take as a teammate?
Who would I pick as my partner...? Probably, it would be Richard Mason(race operations director), with whom we are currently working in the Volvo Ocean Race and with whom we have participated in more than one project. We trust each other completely and I think we'll make a great team!
Your New Year wishes to all who are sailing?
To everyone who is currently racing at different levels, be it Vedée Globe or a local regatta, my wish is not to stop and not to forget where it all started. Let's support the youngsters, make sure they make the right choices by dedicating themselves to the sport and add to the legacy it carries.
What is your favorite place to go yachting?
I think it has to be Lisbon, Portugal - where we are now!