The Volvo Ocean Race sets off from Alicante on October 11th, with the fleet of new ‘one-design’ Volvo Ocean 65 racing yachts bound for Capetown on the first 6,500 mile leg of their world-girdling challenge.
It’s a significant moment in the history of the VOR, as previously the race could be won or lost in the design phase for teams building rival boats within the framework of the rules. This year with identical boats, it should all be down to the performance of the rival sailing teams – which could (the organisers say should!) make it the closest-fought competition in VOR history.
The yachts are all built off plans drawn up by Farr Yacht Design. At 66ft the hulls are a little shorter than the old Volvo Open 70s, but a bowsprit takes ‘length overall’ to 72ft, and with a 99ft rig height the boats carry an impressive 578 square metres of sail downwind.
With a canting keel, twin forward dagger-boards and three water ballast tanks, the boats should keep their racing crews busy on the 39k nautical mile route from Alicante to Gothenburg. (The route includes a series of ‘in-port’ races at various stopovers along the way.)
If you’re not heading to one of the stopovers – for the racing or the parties! – it should be fun to follow the event from your armchair (or perhaps your office chair); the boats have an onboard media package that includes 5 cameras that can be remotely controlled, and new microphone systems that will enable interviews to be carried out in the heat of battle – or from the eye of storms. Keep an eye out for updates, or find out more about the boats, teams and route, on the official VOR website.
So why is GRR so interested? Well, it’s certainly not because we’re buttering Volvo up for a go in the new XC90 SUV just revealed in Paris, or because the company has a habit of inviting freeloaders aboard one of the old Open 70s for the annual Round The Island race…
Oh dear me, no!
(But we are free for the next one. Definitely. *cough*)
Images: David Ramos/Volvo Ocean Race