Brian Hancock wants the VOR to get with it...
There has been a lot of coverage of the new generation IMOCA 60’s leading up to the start of the Vendée Globe which gets underway in a couple of months, and there is just no doubt about it that those boats are among the most sophisticated pieces of machinery ever devised for a single purpose. The new Dali foils are some of the sexiest pieces of equipment to be added to a boat in years and believe me sailing can use more sex appeal.
Now, I know that I need to tread carefully here, but as far as I am concerned the IMOCA boats far outstrip the VOR 65’s in just about all areas. Put the two boats side by side and VOR 65’s look dated. There is nothing really that innovative about them and take account of this; in the last Volvo Ocean Race Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing set (I think I am correct here) the longest 24-hour run of 551 nautical miles whereas in the Vendée Globe François Gabart, sailing single-handed on a smaller boat, logged an impressive 545 nautical miles. Just six fewer miles, all alone and on a boat that is five feet shorter in length. An extraordinary performance to be sure and Gabart is an awesome sailor, but the IMOCA boats are just that much more impressive than the VOR 65’s.
Let me quickly add, before my inbox gets jammed with hate mail, that I am a huge fan of the Volvo Ocean Race and have participated in three of them back when it was called the Whitbread Round-the-World-Race. And I also understand the argument made by the VOR brass about keeping costs down and going One Design, but if the Volvo Ocean Race wants to remain at the pinnacle of offshore ocean racing they need to take a tack and do something different and that different thing should be, in my opinion, switching to multihulls.
I know that I am not the first to suggest this but it’s time for a big change if the VOR is to reclaim the title as the Premier Offshore Ocean Race. I believe the Vendee Globe is a way more impressive event. Here are a number of reasons why I propose switching to multihulls. I am told that you can build an 80-foot trimaran for less than a VOR 65 and you don’t need as many crew to sail a multihull as you do to sail a highly strung monohull and the VOR 65’s are highly strung. You get a much more impressive boat and some cost savings on crew salaries. An 80 or even 90 foot trimaran will be vastly faster than a VOR 65 making the total amount of days racing a lot less, another big cost savings.
The legs will be quicker and will hold the attention of those following the race. Fans lose interest on the really long legs. Just imagine how spectacular the in-port racing will be if a fleet of massive trimarans are racing an inshore course in full view of the public. And lastly as a platform for corporate entertaining, and isn’t this all about corporate entertaining, a multihull is just way better. There is a lot more space to fit guests and the boats do not heel like a monohull. All good reasons.
In the past there was the fear of capsize with a multihull and that was a legitimate concern, but we have come a long way with their design. One only has to remember that the aforementioned Gabart sailed his 30-meter trimaran solo across the Atlantic this past summer and the French have been sailing large multihulls through the Southern Ocean for years without incident. With some stringent righting moment requirements a new generation multihull can be a very safe boat.
The Whitbread, now VOR, used to be a spectacular event; maxi-yachts like Steinlager were so impressive to watch and there were big fleets and lots of big personalities. Sure some of the onboard video footage from the last VOR is awesome but how many times can you watch a boat bury its bow and the deck get swamped in three feet of water?
Take my word for it, a fleet of big trimarans will be awesome, it will be a bold move on behalf of the race organizers, and you will engage a whole new fan base putting the VOR back on top as the top offshore race.
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