When the purpose is clear

Published on August 11th, 2019

If you’ve ever watched the In-Port races of the Volvo Ocean Race, the saying “horses for courses” is blaring. The three editions for the Volvo Open 70s from 2005 to 2012, and then later the Volvo Ocean 65 for two more laps, highlighted how these boats were intended to tackle the most fearful waters, not lumber along in fan-friendly venues.

The DNA of these pure-purpose machines lingers on.

The team at Juan Yacht Design was understandably chuffed when American brothers David and Peter Askew won the 2019 Fastnet Race with a boat they designed to win the 2011–12 Volvo Ocean Race (which it did). Philippe Oulhen from JYD shares his thoughts following the overall victory by the Volvo Open 70 Wizard.

The Facts:
American brothers David and Peter Askew won the 48th edition when they finished 45 minutes ahead of the runner-up (or 1% of the corrected race time), and more than double that time over the third-placed boat.

Unlike many previous editions, we cannot talk about a vintage year for big boats or small boats in the rankings based on correct time. The next 70-foot boat was down in eight place. Between second and seventh, there were boats measuring between 33 and 52 feet. The crew of Rambler 88 also performed well in this edition, with their race time remarkable as they finished ahead of a boat 12-feet bigger.

What won the race?

Human factor:
The crew skippered by the talented Charlie Enright showed their experience and there was the remarkable strategic ability of their navigator, Will Oxley. By sticking north early on in the race, the team dealt well with the transition that slowed the whole fleet down. The Volvo Ocean Race veterans aboard Wizard managed to choose the right sails at the right time.

The weather:
The proportion of wind on the beam probably favored the team on Wizard. Even if there were a lot of gybes and changes of tack, Wizard took off when reaching which is the condition for which she was optimized by JYD and Groupama for the 2011-12 Volvo Ocean Race.

The design:
The Volvo Open 70 was fine-tuned for ocean racing from birth. She was initially designed to win one of the most demanding offshore races, and in the colors of Groupama and then Giacomo, and from 2017 in the hands of the Wizard team, the boat has continued to evolve.

When the purpose is clear, the choice of boat apparently is too. “My brother and I acquired this boat as she was considered to be the best performing VO70 and our goal was to take part in the biggest ocean races in the world,” notes David Askew, with wins in the Sydney Hobart, RORC Caribbean 600, Transatlantic Race, and Fastnet. “We are more than satisfied.”


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Background: The biennial 605 nm Rolex Fastnet Race is organized by the Royal Ocean Racing Club (RORC) with just 7 boats sailing the first race in 1925. A record-sized fleet of 362 boats started the 2017 race, 12 more than 2015. The 2019 race, which has 388 starters, was the 48th edition when it set off on August 3.


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