The Volvo Ocean Race Revolution
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The Volvo Ocean Race Revolution

Volvo Ocean Race has undergone the most significant changes since its launch in 1973.
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The CEO of the legendary circumnavigation, Mark Turner, revealed the plans for the Volvo Ocean Race at a big press conference at the Volvo Museum in Gothenburg.

The organizers of the race have found an elegant solution to the eternal argument led by fans around the world: single hulls or catamarans? There will be three hulls - they decided.

No, it's not about trimarans (at least not yet). Starting from the next edition, the teams will participate in the Volvo Ocean Race on both monohulls and catamarans.

The ocean stages of the race will be held on new 60-foot monotypes equipped with hydrofoils, while the port races will be held on flying catamarans between 35 and 50 feet long. At the same time, the status of port races in the competition will increase, although it is not yet specified how. So far, the results of port races have been taken into account only if several teams have the same number of points at the finish line.

The design of the new Volvo Ocean Race monotypes is already in place. They will be, in fact, supercharged IMOCA 60 designed by French foil guru Guillaume Verdier.

He has laid out an interesting feature in the design: after participating in the Volvo Ocean Race, a boat can be converted for a small team, or even for a single team, without extra cost, and can be used in IMOCA 60 class races, such as the Vendee Globe or Barcelona World Race, where two teams are involved.

The construction of the 60-foot VOR single hulls for teams of 5-7 people will start at the Persico Marine yard in Bergamo, Italy. The final stages of the rigging will take place at The Boatyard, Volvo Ocean Race's own mobile yard. Where The Boatyard will be based this time will be determined in a competition among applicants for the title of host city.

The first boat will be launched in January 2019, but eight in total will be built. They are expected to serve the teams for at least six years.

As for catamarans, there is a tender open for their design and construction. Like monohulls, catamarans will be built according to strict monotype class rules.

Boats will be available for hire to teams and budgets will not grow, promises race director Mark Turner. Now the budget of the team participating in Volvo Ocean Race is 10-12 million euros for two years.

«The teams and sponsors will have to act quickly because we expect these exciting new boats to sell out quickly," Turner warns. - The competition regulations, the commercial partnership agreement and the boat rental agreement for the next edition will be published before the 2017-2018 race, which starts in October».

To help young promising athletes pave the way for the Volvo Ocean Race, the organisers, in partnership with the International Sailing Federation World Sailing, will create a network of Volvo Ocean academies where young yachtsmen can gain the offshore racing experience they need to participate in the famous round the world. The Federation has proposed to the International Olympic Committee that offshore racing be included in the Tokyo Olympic programme. If the committee approves the proposal, the boats that will be approved as Olympic Class will be trained at Volvo Academies.

Another focus of the Volvo Ocean Race is ecology. The organizers have signed partnership agreements with 11th Hour Racing, AkzoNobel and the United Nations Environment and approved «a sustainable development»plan, according to which, starting from publication 2017-2018, efforts will be made to minimize the impact on the environment and spread knowledge about pollution problems and how to solve them. For example, the Volvo Ocean Race teams will give up plastic dishes and boats around the world will be used to record information about the state of the ocean. In addition, the organizers have established Ocean Summits, a platform for dialogue between scientists, athletes, business and government on environmental protection.

As for the race route, it will also undergo changes. For example, the organizers plan to include Antarctica's wrap-around or even a non-stop round-the-world voyage as one of the stages.

Three-year breaks between races will disappear, and racing activity will become annual.

Not all VOR fans like the changes made to the race format.

«Copying the Vendee Globe and the America's Cup negates the essence of the Volvo Ocean Race. Speed in or above water is not everything»," says one of the critics of the new format. «I'm a little disappointed with the introduction of different boat formats. The idea is to see how the same boat survives all the way and fights in port racing. Besides, we are sailors, not pilots»," writes another.

However, the Volvo Ocean Race does not believe that the introduction of multihulls is a failure.

On the contrary, in the long term, the race CEO Mark Turner sees an opportunity for VOR to fully switch to multihulls, and we are not even talking about catamarans, but trimarans on the foils, such as the developed French VPLP Ultime.
«In the next decade we're very likely to see the new French Ultime multihulls rushing around the oceans, flying over water most of the time," he said. - But in the end, we felt it was too early to talk about it at this point in development, especially when it comes to building a large fleet of monotypes. It's impossible to modify the entire park with every technological leap».

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