It’s the ultimate long-haul endurance event, a punishing 71 744-km test of human abilities and bleeding-edge technology. This year, though, the Volvo Ocean Race has thrown up a radical new challenge. For the first time in its illustrious 40–year history, teams will be pitted against each other in identical boats.
Now, it all comes down to one thing: the human factor. In the past, teams built their own boats to a particular specification, pushing the boundaries as far as the rules allowed. But constructing (and then maintaining) high-tech racing yachts was so prohibitively expensive that the old adage, “the team with the deepest pockets wins” more or less summed up the reality of this thrilling sport. Costs ran into the hundreds of millions of rand for high-tech creations whose sole mandate was to scream around the world regardless of weather condition sat breakneck speeds – while somehow keeping the crews safe.
This, then, was the challenge that faced Volvo Ocean Race organisers: how could they drive costs down, but also ramp up the competitive spirit? Their solution: design a more affordable boat and make identical copies available to all competitors. By all accounts, their purpose-built one-design Volvo Ocean 65 (VO65) – scheduled to compete in the next two editions of the race – accomplishes just that.
Read more in PM’s October 2014 issue – on sale 22 September.