Volvo Ocean Race: Not what it used to be
Published on May 14th, 2015
After competing in seven editions of the Volvo Ocean Race, Brunel skipper Bouwe Bekking (NED) has earned the right to have an opinion. Here he shares it with Scuttlebutt editor Craig Leweck…
The Volvo Ocean Race is not what it used to be. The one design format is great but all the rules and restrictions now have removed much of the adventure. The course constraints and event enforcements, much of it directed by commercial demands, has changed what used to be a pure test. It is now so complex. From a sailing point of view, it would be nice to just let everything go and have them send us around the world. While the race is now safer, it has lost some of its soul.
From a strategic standpoint, the AIS sucks. You can’t make impactful decisions without someone following you. You can’t drift out of AIS range without someone sliding along with you. It is rare when you can make a navigational decision without someone immediately reacting to it. It might be great for the public watching the race, as it has kept us close, but it is a frustrating environment to be competing within.
As for the boat, we are all equal, but when we first stepped on it we all said the same thing. It’s bloody slow. You can moan and complain about it, but it is what it is. They may have presented the Volvo Ocean 65 as having somewhat similar performance as the 70 footer we used in the three previous races, but the truth is they are quite a bit slower on all points of sail. There’s less sail area, less stability, less length…all the elements that typically contribute to performance.
There have been discussions to improve the boat for the next race, but that’s not what I would do. Maybe you could increase stability, because the boat needs it, but any change is going to cost money, and it remains hard to find the money. If we all make the same changes, and we all come together again to sail against each other, what have we accomplished other than spent money?
So like I said, it is what it is. If we had stayed with the Volvo Ocean 70, this edition probably would have had only two teams: Abu Dhabi and SCA. The VO65 allowed the rest of to get included, albeit at a much later stage than those two teams. So the decision for one design was extremely good, and the boat has given us all a level platform for the competition.
Background: The 2014-15 Volvo Ocean Race began in Alicante, Spain on Oct. 11 with the final finish on June 27 in Gothenburg, Sweden. Racing the new one design Volvo Ocean 65, seven teams will be scoring points in 9 offshore legs to determine the overall Volvo Ocean Race winner. Additionally, the teams will compete in 10 In-Port races at each stopover for a separate competition – the Volvo Ocean Race In-Port Series.