don juan deVolvo
Juan Kouyoumdjian would be more or less unknown were it not for his brilliant VOR 70 designs, with his office creating every winner since the rule was created, and three of the top four boats this race. Yet with Knut Frostad’s announcement the other day of the new Volvo One Design 65, Juan has been cut out of the next VOR. Juan’s neighbor is our old friend Pierre Orphanidis, editor of Vsail.Info, and he grabbed Juan for a long interview the other day about the future of the VOR that proves two things: Pierre isn’t afraid of getting his hands dirty to get the info, and neither is Juan to prove a point. The full interviews are here (Part 1 Part 2) and here are a few excerpts we thought valuable to share with you:
VSail.info: What caused the two broken rudders on Telefonica?
Juan Kouyoumdjian: It is currently being investigated and I don’t think I should get into that right now. There is a pending investigation and we can talk about that some other time.
There is a very important issue here though. You talk about seaworthiness but it’s not about the boat alone. It also concerns the group of people that sail her. While it might be good to try to reduce costs and lower the entry level for the teams, we should always be aware that these boats will sail around the world, achieving great speeds. They will need to have a very professional and highly prepared group of people onboard, which he have in this edition and the previous one. Imagine now the situation where the bar is dropped too low and you have teams that are not prepared in terms of not having enough time on the water, not enough budget, not enough controls on the boat. It’s the debate of quantity over quality.
VSail.info: Let’s assume there are eight teams next time and with a crew of just eight, the total number of sailors in the race will not be different from what we have in this edition, give or take a few. It’s fair to assume most of the sailors would like to race again, so the pool of available sailors will practically be the same. I think we’ll see lots of familiar faces again.
Juan Kouyoumdjian: However, the last entries will sail their new boat just two months before the start of the race. That team is going to break things. The last team to enter will be the one to have the least trained sailors and I still don’t understand why they keep talking about the breakages. The whole issue is wrongly explained by the experts and by that I mean Knut Frostad, because he did the race himself many times as a sailor. I’m surprised that a person that sailed this race doesn’t explain it to the public.
VSail.info: Since you are now involved with both the Artemis Racing multihulls (the ORMA60 trimaran and the AC72 catamaran) could you envision the Volvo Ocean Race being sailed on multihulls?
Juan Kouyoumdjian: Yes, I think so. I think that multihulls, in the world of sailing, are much more efficient than monohulls. The flatter the water is, the bigger the difference in efficiency is but multihulls suffer from sea state and waves much more than monohulls. So, in the case of a round-the-world race you would have to condition the design of the multihulls in a way to withstand these conditions and as such it wouldn’t be as fast a multihull as another high-performance multihull of the same length could be.
VSail.info: Even if you don’t have the fastest 70-foot trimaran it will always be faster than a VO70 and it will allow you to cut the duration of the legs, let’s say from two-three weeks down to 10 days.
Juan Kouyoumdjian: Multihulls is definitely a way to do that and it could be a good way of reducing costs as well.
On Grand Prix racing and the definition of One-Design:
VSail.info: If IMOCA do decide to go one-design what will the process be? Will they invite bids from various designers? Would you make a proposal if asked?
Juan Kouyoumdjian: I don’t think IMOCA will be one-design because in my opinion one-design is not the way to go in these grand prix offshore races. One-design is not grand prix racing. It’s just a marketing event.
VSail.info: The MOD70’s are another one-design class that pretends to build a niche in offshore racing.
Juan Kouyoumdjian: It’s not grand prix either, it’s just a marketing event. They still haven’t raced and we don’t know whether it will be a successful class or not.
On developmt rules and the VOR:
Juan Kouyoumdjian: The Volvo Ocean Race has been very important to us, it’s part of our lives and we really like the idea of a grand prix offshore event. The world of sailing always needed it and this has been proven by history. Whatever has been developed through the Whitbreads and the Volvos has found its way to the normal boats people sail. The decision to do that on a one-design leaves a void open so that, eventually, somebody else could organize it. The Volvo Ocean Race has now become the Clipper Plus and if someone wants to organize a true grand prix offshore event we’ll be there.
If AUDI weren’t allowed to take their hybrid cars to Le Mans we would have never seen hybrid engines in our street cars. This is how development happens and now the Volvo Group has clearly said they don’t want any development in the Volvo Ocean Race. I hope that within their car design office they don’t have the same policy.
On budgets and one-design:
VSail.info: Talking of stopovers, wouldn’t the Sanya team have more chances in a one-design race? Their boat is the slowest of the fleet, so no matter how brilliant sailors they might be, they have an inherent disadvantage.
Juan Kouyoumdjian: You will have the same situation with one-design, even more. With a one-design boat you will guarantee that the richest team will win. They will hire the best sailors first and, by the way, their salaries will double. I salute this because I think they weren’t paid enough to sail around the world in the conditions they do it. They seem to be lucky now and at least they should expect their salaries to double or triple. Not only that but the costs of refinements, whether it’s the sails, the mast tube, the trim of the boat, will go up.
Even a Laser gets refined and in the Laser world if you have more money and you are better prepared, you win. If that happens in the Laser class do you really think it won’t happen with a canting-keel 65 footer? This is definitely going to be the case. Maybe this is what we should do! We could be hired to optimize the one-design! Can you imagine that scenario?
On the dangers of cost-cutting:
VSail.info: I don’t understand. Are you saying that a potential team didn’t enter the current Volvo Ocean Race edition because they wanted to spend more money?
Juan Kouyoumdjian: Yes, it was Ericsson. What they basically said was “We want to re-enter the race but we want to do it with our philosophy, which means two boats, two-boat testing, development and involvement from our part”. Knut Frostad’s reply was “No way, I’m not going to allow it” and Ericsson decided not to go ahead. At that time there was a notion of budget limit but that proposal was then withdrawn. There are teams that are not directly driven by budget.