Volvo Ocean Race to add foiling catamarans for in-port races
It's going to take three hulls to win the Volvo Ocean race in the future.
No, it's not going to be sailed in trimarans.
In a move to update the classic blue water race with space-age technology currently being used in the America's Cup and other races, the Volvo Ocean Race on Thursday announced it will use 60-foot, foil-assisted monohulls for the ocean legs and foiling catamarans for in-port races starting in 2019.
The 2017-18 edition of the race, which starts in October in Alicante, Spain, will use 65-foot monohulls for the ocean legs and in-port races.
Organizers also are considering tweaking the route, which traditionally has started and ended in Europe. Future routes could include a non-stop lap around Antarctica and even a non-stop trip around the world. The current race stops at several ports along the way.
"We need to keep on changing and keep on getting better," Volvo Ocean Race CEO Mark Turner said in a phone interview. "Competition for funding is bigger than ever. Standing still was never an option."
While foiling has been around for years in various classes, the revolution in the America's Cup is quickly changing the sport. The 35th America's Cup, which starts May 26 in Bermuda, will be sailed in 50-foot catamarans that rise up on hydrofoils when they reach a certain speed, lifting the hulls completely out of the water to make them go faster.
The Volvo Ocean Race isn't ready yet for foiling cats that can transverse the globe, so it'll settle for a happy medium.
For the ocean legs, it will go to a smaller, lighter monohull with adjustable foils on each side of the hull. The foils won't lift the hull completely out of the water, but enough to reduce drag and increase speeds significantly, Turner said.
"As the technology shifts, and I've never seen such a big shift, we need to adjust, whether we're going across the ocean or in-port," Turner said. "We can do both. We need to be on the leading edge of that technology, and now's the time to make that step."
Turner said there's a lot of pressure to use large multihulls for the offshore legs, but the technology is still a few years away from applying it to sailing on big ocean waves, particularly in the wild Southern Ocean.
Turner said the 60-foot monohulls will be the optimal size for balancing performance and safety. He said those boats will mark the beginning of the change from hydrodynamics to aerodynamics.
The new boats will still have canting keels that move from side to side and give the boats stability. But as foiling enters the monohull world, "all the forces are changing," Turner said.
For the time being, though, sailors still need to work the boat in conventional fashion in many conditions, Turner said. "It's an imperfect world. You need different solutions. You need redundancy. If you break a foil you still need to get home."
The catamarans that will be used in the in-port races in the future will be around 35-40 feet long, smaller than the America's Cup boats.
The winners of future VOR's will truly be multi-dimensional.
"Nothing will be tougher than to front and win an eight-month race. This will basically make it even harder to win," Turner said. "The team that wins the VOR in the future can justifiably say it put together the best all-around sailors to do that. The two disciplines are different, but increasingly, the top sailors are able to do them both," Turner said.
While the focus will continue to be on the offshore legs, the in-port races "will open the eyes of our audience to multihulls," he said. "It might even be the way to go in the future for offshore."
The 2017-18 race will be the longest yet at around 46,000 nautical miles, crossing four oceans and stopping in 12 cities on six continents during eight months.