Volvo Ocean Race looks to IMOCA Class

Published on April 6th, 2018

It’s been a bumpy Volvo Ocean Race. For those into superstitions, this is the 13th edition. A couple MOBs, two race-related fatalities, collisions, dismastings, awkward course through Asia, retirements. And when faced with adversity, the race reporting gets silent.

Maybe these are all tremors following the earthquake September 2017, less than one month before the start, when it was announced that Volvo management was pulling the handbrake on the ambitious plans for the future by CEO Mark Turner, and that Turner was out the door.

Center to those ambitious plans was what boat would be used.

In May 2017 it was announced how a foil-assisted 60-foot monohull would be used for the ocean legs and an ultra-fast 32-50 foot flying catamaran for use inshore. But that was scraped, and it has been just crickets ever since about when and what would be the 14th edition.

Perhaps with a view that the current path of the Volvo Ocean Race is not sustainable, news comes from the 2018 Annual General Meeting of the International Monohull Open Class Association (IMOCA) that the Volvo Ocean Race is interested in the IMOCA 60.

This 60-foot boat is used in all the premiere short-handed monohull races, and highlighted in what some contend to now be the ultimate offshore event, the Vendée Globe, a single-handed non-stop yacht race around the world without assistance.

The IMOCA skippers voted in favour of the possible addition of the Volvo Ocean Race to the IMOCA race calendar. Those involved in the class have agreed in principle to allowing the next crewed round the world race with stopovers to be raced aboard 60-foot IMOCAs. It is now up to the Board to continue talks with the Volvo Ocean Race.

Antoine Mermod, President of the IMOCA class: “In general, the skippers voted massively in favour of bringing these competitions together. Discussions will now continue in the weeks ahead between the IMOCA class and the VOR, so the basic concept can be drawn up for this partnership. The skippers really want to move in that direction and we are ready. The ball is now in the court of the VOR…”

Said IMOCA skipper Boris Herrmann after the AGM, “If the two most prestigious offshore races (Vendée Globe and Volvo) are raced on IMOCAs, it will be a major help in increasing the popularity of the class internationally and setting up new projects will be even more attractive to sponsors.”

Nicolas Lunven, a renowned solo sailor on the French scene who is on Dee Caffari’s Turn the Tide on Plastic, sees this as a step forward.

“This boat is far from being a marvel,” says Lunven of the Volvo Ocean 65. “It is heavy, but not very stiff in what regards sail area. It must be sailed with lots of sail area for sailing fast, but it does not have enough righting moment. When the sea is strong, it is hard to steer, and heels too much. It is too difficult to get into speed. It is necessary all the time to make sail changes. The center of gravity of this boat is high, so it is unstable. It is very tiring to maneuver. You need a big crew.”

Waiting now for news from the Volvo Ocean Race….

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2017-18 Edition: Entered Teams – Skippers
Team AkzoNobel (NED), Simeon Tienpont (NED)
Dongfeng Race Team (CHN), Charles Caudrelier (FRA)
MAPFRE (ESP), Xabi Fernández (ESP)
Vestas 11th Hour Racing (DEN/USA), Charlie Enright (USA)
Team Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag (HKG), David Witt (AUS)
Turn the Tide on Plastic (POR), Dee Caffari (GBR)
Team Brunel (NED), Bouwe Bekking (NED)

Background: Racing the one design Volvo Ocean 65, the 2017-18 Volvo Ocean Race begins in Alicante, Spain on October 22 2017 with the final finish in The Hague, Netherlands on June 30 2018. In total, the 11-leg race will visit 12 cities in six continents: Alicante, Lisbon, Cape Town, Melbourne, Hong Kong, Guangzhou, Auckland, Itajaí, Newport, Cardiff, Gothenburg, and The Hague. A maximum of eight teams will compete.

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