New era begins as first Volvo Ocean 65 comes through pull-down test
The first of the new one-design Volvo Ocean 65 racing boats has come safely through a rigorous round of testing – including a heart-stopping pull-down test putting the boat at an angle of 50 degrees – and is on track to be declared “ready to sail” by the end of the week.
Radical, high-performance, tough and designed around the demands of digital communications – the new Volvo Ocean 65s mark the first use of a one-design boat in the 40-year history of the Volvo Ocean Race.
The new 65-foot yacht was designed by Farr Yacht Design in the United States and built by a consortium of boatyards in the UK, France, Italy and Switzerland.
The fleet of new boats will be used for the first time in the 12th edition of the round-the-world race starting in just over a year’s time on October 4 2014 in Alicante and will be tough enough to be used again in 2017-18.
The new boat left the Green Marine boatyard in southern England on Monday and touched the water for the first time that evening. It has since undergone extensive testing, overseen by class manager James Dadd, and it should be taken out for its first sail on Thursday before being given the green light and handed over to Team SCA at the end of the week.
The pull-down test, simulating a failure of the canting keel system, is far from the only hurdle that has to be cleared before the boat is given the green light to be raced but it is easily the most spectacular.
The new boat was heeled to 50 degrees while the keel was canted fully to the same side as an extreme way of testing the automatic keel centring mechanism.
“This is a significant test for the boat, and particularly the keel bulkheads and support structure,” said Dadd. The Volvo Ocean 65 has significantly more internal structure and higher design margins than previous Volvo Ocean Race boats.
“It’s also a good test of the canting mechanism, with a much higher load than when we are sailing, as in this test we are only using one ram instead of two.
“It’s a case of taking the boat way beyond normal sailing loads.”
Other tests have included a structural integrity bend test to check how much deflection is in the hull, an engine test and a cooling, oil and fuel system test.
While Team SCA – the first female team to enter the race in over a decade – are preparing to take delivery of their Volvo Ocean 65, further down the production line, work has already begun on boat number seven. The other boats will be rolled out over the coming months.
The shift to a strict one-design solution is a radical strategic move for the race – a move that drastically improves cost efficiency for the teams and their sponsors. It also puts more emphasis than ever before on the racing out on the water rather than on who has designed the quickest boat.
"If it hadn't been for the new One Design rule, then I probably wouldn't have done the race again," says Ian Walker, who is returning in 2014-15 to skipper Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing. "It's definitely going to be the tightest race in history."
Editors' Notes: The Volvo Ocean Race
- The next edition of the Volvo Ocean Race will be the 12th running of the 40-year-old event, which started in 1973 as the Whitbread Round the World Race.
- The race will start on October 4, 2014, day of the first In-Port Race in Alicante, Spain, and finish with one last In-Port Race on June 27, 2015 in Gothenburg, the Swedish home of Volvo.
- The 39,379-nautical mile route will include stopovers in Cape Town (South Africa), Abu Dhabi (UAE), Sanya (China), Auckland (New Zealand), Itajaí (Brazil), Newport (Rhode Island, US), Lisbon (Portugal) and Lorient (France).
- The next two editions will be contested in a new high-performance boat, the Volvo Ocean 65, designed by Farr Yacht Design in the United States and built by a consortium of boatyards in the United Kingdom, France, Italy and Switzerland.
- The new 65-foot (19.8-metre) monohull racing yachts will be strictly One Design and delivered “ready to sail”. The boats incorporate the latest video, satellite and content production facilities to further enhance the Onboard Reporter programme that has been in place since 2008-09.
- The all-female Team SCA were the first to announce their participation in the 2014-15 edition. Backed by SCA, the global hygiene and forest products company, they will be the first all-women's team to compete in the race since 2001-02. The second team announced so far, Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, will once again feature Britain's twice Olympic silver medallist Ian Walker as skipper.
- The previous Volvo Ocean Race started in October 2011 in Alicante and was won by Groupama sailing team, skippered by Frenchman Franck Cammas, in July 2012.