Radical changes to the next Volvo Ocean Race will see a fleet of identical boats all built in Europe in an effort to cut costs, boost safety and attract more entries.
The new one-design Volvo 65 unveiled in France tonight will be drawn up by Farr Yacht Design, and all will be built exactly the same by a consortium of European boatyards.
Volvo Ocean Race CEO Knut Frostad said a minimum of eight yachts will be built, with the first launched in June next year. It will still be a high-performance boat, he said, but constructed strong enough to do two consecutive round-the-world races.
New Zealand boatbuilders won't play a part in the next edition of the race, in 2014-15, with Frostad saying "it wouldn't be feasible for half of the boat to be built on the other side of the world". But it is possible that Kiwi suppliers, like Southern Spars, could provide rigs for the new boats.
Teams wanting to enter the 2014-15 race will buy a "ready-to-sail" boat at a fixed price, likely to be 4.5 million euros. That's a 30 percent reduction in the cost of a boat in the current race.
Frostad estimated a syndicate could do the race on a budget of 12-15 million euros. With only six boats racing in the current edition - which enters its final stage this weekend - it was one of the race's main objectives to lower the entry costs, allowing more teams to compete on a level playing field. Costs will be further cut by pooling shore services and spare parts.
The race sought a boat that was still "challenging to race, exciting to sail and the King of the Oceans," but it had to have a significantly higher level of reliability and strength.
The 19.8m monohull is 1.5m shorter than the current Volvo Open 70, and more than 3 tonnes lighter. It will have two water ballast tanks on the wings and another forward to improve upwind performance. The sail wardrobe will be reduced from 10 to seven sails.
The crew will be reduced from 10 to eight, plus a media crew member. Female crews will be encouraged to return to the race, with the new generation of boats easier to handle.
Kiwi designer Bruce Farr's United States office has been charged with drawing the design and four Northern Hemisphere boatyards will work together to build the boats. Teams will buy the boats directly from Green Marine in the United Kingdom. Construction of the moulds will start in August.
Volvo Cars and Volvo Group have committed funding for the design and production of a minimum of eight boats to compete in the next two races.
"We are now at the place in the history of the Volvo Ocean Race where we have the greatest opportunity to bring this race, and the amazing sport of ocean racing, to a completely new level," Frostad said.
Auckland will learn if it is back as a race stopover, when the route is finalised on December 21.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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