Classes and Boats

Two types of boats for the Volvo Ocean Race: the opinion of Juan Kouyoumdjian and Xabi Fernández

The designer of three champion boats back to the world and the master of the Mapfre value the arrival of the IMOCA. Will they be ships suitable for full crews?

There were no changes to the script and the organization of the Volvo Ocean Race confirmed a few days ago that the next edition of the race (2021/2022) will be contested with two classes of boats: the VO65 monotypes used in the last two versions of the round the world and the IMOCA 60, designed to date for solo navigation. Thus begins a new era in ocean sailing.

For the defenders of the landing of the IMOCA class in the Volvo Ocean Race, the sailors are going to have more options to compete in the two most significant challenges offered by the oceans (the ‘Volvo’ and the Vendee Globe, the round the world solo and non-stop), at the same time it creates a market more attractive to sponsors. For the most critical sector, on the other hand, the new ships might not fit well into a full-crew circumnavigation or should the IMOCA arrive in Port too far in advance of the VO65, blurring the ports of call.

The World of the Guru

One of the great champions of the arrival of the IMOCA is the designer Juan Kouyoumdjian. “I am totally against One Design in races such as the Copa America or the Volvo Ocean Race because it doesn’t make any sense and even breaks the Grand Prix criteria,” explains NAUTA360 Argentine naval architect during his visit to the Copa del Rey Mapfre. “Sailing is a sport like motor racing: there is an important human factor, but the relationship with the instrument, with equipment, is fundamental. This has been the case throughout history and breaking the importance of equipment is wrong,” argues Juan K, for whom the VO65 assumed an “involution” in the race. Not for nothing, his job is to win the competition before the start by tracing the fastest sailboat.

There are some technical doubts as to how IMOCA will be adapted in the Volvo Ocean Race, bearing in mind that this fleet is designed for solo navigation. Kouyoumdjian says no revolution will be needed in design studies. “I would say that 95% of the rule will” sentence. According to the designer, even the cover configuration will not undergo drastic changes.

Beyond design, the configuration of the crews will be a fundamental factor and will have a different perspective from the latest editions of the Volvo Ocean Race. For the skipper of the Spanish boat, ” the less crew there is on board, the more the adventure factor enters, and the less the competition factor. We are talking about five [team] more reporters or six more reporters; in today’s IMOCA, it is crazy to think about it.” In his opinion, the tendency will be to bet on more versatile sailors to the detriment of the specialists (the best bow, the best helmsman, the best Navigator).

Kouyoumdjian thinks that the return of technological development to the race could benefit teams like the Spanish: “people like Xabi Fernández, Patán [Pablo Arrarte], Ñeti [Antonio Cueva’s-Mons] or Iker Martínez have an excellent capacity for technical development, just as much as in any country that is a sailing power. The change would greatly help crew members with that profile.

The VO65 as a Springboard for Young People

About the VO65, since the Volvo Ocean Race, they have already revealed that this class will be focused on young crews, in line with the experience of the recent edition. In which a generation of sailors took part who took on the challenge of the race for the first time, among which were several Olympic champions and winners of the Copa America.

The History of the Edition 1993/94

This is not the first time around the world has been disputed by two classes. For the 93/94 edition, when the race was still called Whitbread Round the World Race, the organization decided to accept two types of boats. On the one hand, the traditional maxis competing under the International Offshore Rule (IOR), a formula that was dying with the arrival of new lighter construction materials, as the teams had to add lead ballast to their ships to achieve the displacement established by the rule. Faced with this nonsense and to try to reduce budgets, a cheaper class was created, the Whitbread 60, which was used until 2002. Then it was the turn of the VO70 (2005-2012), but these boats ended up being very expensive, so in the last editions, due to the economic crisis, hardly any projects with financial muscle emerged to build them. The solution came in the form of the VO65, same boats for all. Four years later, the Volvo Ocean Race again changed its course to seduce more sailors and sponsors.

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