The best-kept secret in sailing (outside of ETNZ’s wing control) comes at the end of a long press conference from Volvo HQ in Gothenburg, SWE. Here’s a synopsis of Mark Turner’s speech, in order of importance (to us), and we encourage you to post any comments or questions you have for Turner and the VOR in the synopsis thread so Clean can fire ’em at Turner later for an interview to be published this weekend.
1) The offshore portions of the 2019 or 2020 Volvo Ocean Race will be contested in what the new design chief calls a ‘Turbo IMOCA’; 60 foot foiling monohulls with adjustable-flap foils; while the in-port racing will happen in foiling cats. The 60 footer will be ‘convertible’ to an IMOCA, and the VOR in-house design team led by Guillaume Verdier. The cats are being opened up to a design tender process starting today at between 32 and 50 feet.
2) The 2020 Race has a wishlist of 8 teams, and all boats will be owned by VOR and leased to teams in an attempt to reduce the initial barriers to a new team/sponsor. Turner says the new lease program and pooled services program allows a similar budget for future races to that of today’s programs. This lease thing is a BIG deal, and speaks as much to Turner’s cred with the Volvo Board as anything. One paper calls the new moves (including the design and build process) a USD$50 million price tag for Volvo.
3) Sustainability looks to be a real goal this time rather than just more lip service to ‘green’ sponsors. VOR spent the last ten years bowing primarily to the god of social media – their new pet deity is now a clean ocean, and they’ve got funding and support from 11th Hour, Akzo, and the United Nations, and their goal is a fleet of Zero Emission races. 2017/18 sustainable goals will be met with help of rules requiring team use of official RIBs, hydrogenerator minimums, fuel maximums, etc.
4) It’s obvious the VOR has struggled pulling in team sponsors – that’s why you saw the Hong Kong team’s offer accepted yesterday, why there are still 3 empty boats, and why VOR is still trying to find someone to run a ‘clean the oceans’ entry for an all-women/all-youth/50/50 mixed team for the coming edition they say is already half funded.
5) Volvo and the VOR have formed a major partnership with World Sailing, principally to help create a pipeline for young sailors to become offshore pros and VOR crews. This includes new VOR Academies (presumably in partnership with existing organizations) and keeps Turner and his hefty experience involved in the possibility of the offshore racing Olympic event that World Sailing has been chasing from the IOC.
6) Course may be radically different, especially for the 50th anniversary 2023 event. More racing between races or a straight up 2-year race cycle, with race activity every year. Maybe a crewed non-stop race around Antarctica.