The good news is that the Volvo Ocean Race has what looks to be a fast, super-sexy one-design boat for crews to compete aboard. The bad news is that at press time, with less than a year to go to the October 4, 2014, start in Alicante, Spain, only three teams had officially thrown their hats into the ring: China’s Team Dongfeng, Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing and Sweden’s all-female Team SCA.
But all is not necessarily lost. The whole idea behind the new Farr-designed Volvo Ocean 65 was to make it cheaper and easier to organize a campaign, thereby boosting the number of entries. All boats are to be delivered in “ready to sail” condition, with severe restrictions on modifications that can be made afterward. This, in turn, means there is no reason why viable sponsors can’t launch serious campaigns at the last minute.
VOR organizers have also already committed to using VO65s in at least two other events, ensuring they will not immediately become obsolete at the end of the 2014-15 race.
“Now that the Volvo Ocean Race has gone one-design, it’s a much smaller time requirement to be involved for a full campaign,” says Oracle Team USA grinder Shannon Falcone, who is currently on the lookout for a team. “If you have the right group of guys, you can pretty much come in last minute and do just a little bit of sailing. You don’t have to do the months and months of testing and development beforehand.”
Something else to keep in mind: because the new boats are being delivered on a first-come-first-served basis, there is a strong incentive to enter the fray as late as possible, since the later builds will likely be slightly faster as the builders refine their construction processes.
Although the 2011-12 VOR, which was won by France’s Groupama, proved to be one of most dramatic in the 40-year history of the event, there was no disguising the fact there were only six teams competing. In creating the new VO65, race organizers have already committed to building at least eight boats.
As for the VO65s themselves, if Team SCA’s experience thus far is any indication, the competitors in the next installment of the VOR are in for a heck of a good time.
“After seeing the boat in the shed compared to the VOR70 ,I was interested to see how the 65 would be to sail, but we were impressed with its performance, especially sailing downwind,” says SCA boat caption Liz Wardley. Expect to see a number of other as-yet unnamed teams checking out this hot new design in the months to come.
Photos courtesy of Rick Tomlinson/Team SCA