Just over three months ago, on 18 May 2017, Volvo Ocean Race CEO Mark Turner stood on a stage in the Volvo Museum in Gothenburg and announced that the question of whether the future of the race was monohull or multihull had been solved.
In fact, the Volvo Ocean Race had opted for both – and would design and build a one-design foil-assisted 60-foot (18.29 metre) monohull for the ocean legs, and a one-design 32-50 foot foiling catamaran (10-15 metre) for use inshore at the stopovers.
Now, with the 2017-18 edition already apace following a thrilling Leg Zero, work on the two new boats has been moving very fast in the background.
This week, the first mock up of the Guillaume Verdier-designed offshore monohull was revealed at the Boatyard in Lisbon – and it looks incredible.
“We contacted several designers and asked them to submit their ideas for both a complete stand-alone Volvo Ocean Race boat, or with the potential to convert to an IMOCA boat,” said Bice.
“All the designers that we invited to present were very strong, it wasn’t clear cut – we had some pretty serious soul-searching to decide what we wanted to do. I went to New Zealand and spent a day with Guillaume to get to know him, and we decided he was our man.”
Verdier recently came to prominence as a designer for the foiling 2016 Vendée Globe boats, and for the 36th America’s Cup winners, Emirates Team New Zealand.
“We’ve created the Volvo Ocean Race Design Team as a collaboration, getting the best input from everywhere,” said Bice. “It’s going to be a very cool boat; imagine coming into the finish, in a harbour in 20 knots of breeze and you are going to see this thing fully airborne, foiling, at 35 to 40 knots.”
Verdier has now gathered his team around him, and they have been working hard on the hull lines. The design has developed in a way that will enable IMOCA 60 compatibility, making it convertible, relatively quickly and inexpensively, to a short-handed rules-compliant IMOCA boat for events like the solo Vendée Globe and two-up Barcelona World Race.
“We don’t think there is any compromise to making a stand-alone Volvo Ocean Race boat comply with the IMOCA 60 rules. Although in Volvo mode, we will have another keel, we will have different rudders, foils, we will have a different rig on it,” said Bice.
“So now, with the new two-year race cycle, a team can compete in an IMOCA event in between, maintaining profile for a sponsor and making it much easier for them to commit to two cycles of the Volvo Ocean Race. That’s what we want to try and achieve.