‘Radical initiatives’ to strengthen appeal of Volvo Ocean Race

New foiling offshore design has been announced for 2020 edition of the race

Justin Slattery: shaved an hour off the record time from LA to Hawaii aboard Lloyd Thornburg’s MOD70 Phaedo Three. Photograph:  Matt Knighton/Getty Images

Justin Slattery: shaved an hour off the record time from LA to Hawaii aboard Lloyd Thornburg’s MOD70 Phaedo Three. Photograph: Matt Knighton/Getty Images

 

In a much-promised shake-up of the world’s top ocean race, a new foiling offshore design has been announced for the 2020 edition of the Volvo Ocean Race.

A series of “radical initiatives” to create the “toughest all-round test in professional sailing” and strengthen the appeal of the race were unveiled by race CEO Mark Turner in Sweden.

Highlights include the choice of a new 60ft (18.29 m) foil-assisted One Design ocean racing monohull, designed by France’s Guillaume Verdier, plus the introduction of a challenging 32-50 foot (10-15m) One Design “flying” catamaran for in-port races, for which a new design and build tender process was also launched.

“Three hulls, but not what you might have imagined,” said Turner, revealing the next fleet and referencing the difficult decision of whether to opt for a monohull or multihull design for the ocean legs, a subject hotly debated by Volvo Ocean Race fans.

“We had a lot of debate about multihull versus monohull, and in fact the final solution for us is to do both, so there will be three hulls in future editions – a foil-assisted monohull and a “flying” catamaran,” said Turner.

Revamped race

From an Irish sailing point of view, whether Ireland’s tiny sailing population can play any future part in the revamped race remains to be seen. Some of the changes outlined look to put it out of reach, yet against all the odds Ireland twice previously fielded entries in the 44-year-old race.

The 2020 changes chime precisely with a new generation of foiling sailors (including Olympic silver medallist Annalise Murphy) emerging at the National Yacht Club at Dún Laoghaire.

And it is this same club that nurtures an enduring love of offshore sailing and whose membership includes 2016 Vendee Globe debutante Enda O’Coineen, the sailor who masterminded both previous Volvo Ocean Race entries, namely 1989’s NCB Ireland and the 2008 Green Dragon campaign.

One man who knows all about what it takes to succeed in the Volvo Ocean Race is double winner Justin Slattery, who this week added the Transpacific record to his global record feats, shaving one hour off the record time from LA to Hawaii aboard Lloyd Thornburg’s MOD70 Phaedo Three.

Subject to ratification by the World Speed Sailing Record Council, the Cork offshore star broke a transatlantic record at 23, was bowman on Steve Fossett’s round the world rocket Cheyenne in 2004, set new benchmarks during the course of his two Volvo Ocean Race victories, and last August claimed the Round Isle of Wight record.

Offshore sailing

Another Irish club was rewarded this week for its efforts to promote offshore sailing around this island. Wicklow Sailing Club, one of the country’s smallest, celebrated its win of the Mitsubishi Motors Club of the Year award, not least for its 2016 staging of the 2016 record-breaking 64-boat edition of the classic 700-mile Volvo Round Ireland Race.

Meanwhile Rio Laser Rep Finn Lynch (21) has qualified to compete at the Sailing World Cup Final in Santander, Spain, on June 4th. The youngest ever Irish Olympic helmsman took the Ulster Laser title at at Royal North of Ireland a fortnight ago.

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