Mark your calendars for this last week of September 2017 to be an historic one for yacht racing. The two biggest races in the sport of sailing, the America’s Cup and the Volvo Ocean Race, (VOR) are making some big announcements this week and if you’re not already, I’m sure you’ll soon be on the edge of your seat.
Let’s start with the Volvo Ocean Race, the first of the two to make headlines this week. Newly appointed CEO of the race, Mark Turner, who just recently replaced Knut Frostad in this big role, has stepped down after proposing and even pushing through some pretty big changes to the event. And Yes – this is the same race slated to begin in just 3 short weeks as 7 teams shove off for their around the world journey. Much of what they take with them on this 17-18 edition of the race has much to do with Turner and his forward thinking, technology-pushing mindset. For one, many crews will have women on board, something Turner added to the rules, giving an extra sailor to those crews who added women to their roster. Second, teams and the race as a whole must focus more on sustainability and lastly- and this is a big one – the route for this edition of the race has a new, very long 12,000-mile Southern Ocean leg from Cape Town to Auckland. And we all know what the Southern Ocean delivers to these boats and sailors. It’s a big, angry stretch of ocean that often delivers boat and crew breaking conditions.
Perhaps what pushed Turner out, however, were not the changes many embraced for this edition, but changes proposed for future races which were similarly aggressive – perhaps too much so for all involved. Proposals included a 2-year race format, a new boat of 60 feet – down from the VO65s -that is foil-assisted and would be designed by super designer, Guillaume Verdier. The current VO65s that were refurbished to use on this, their second race, have been reliable but are also seeming dated when surrounded by the fast moving world of foiling multihulls.
Yachting World explains that “this new 60ft foil design would be faster and visually more exciting. The design concept was such that they could potentially also be eligible for the Vendée Globe, and therefore be an attractive proposition for new sponsors and nations.
Finally, Turner’s formula included a fully foiling multihull of 32-50ft for inshore stadium racing in ports of call. This plan drew together all the areas of the sport in which Turner has been involved, and which have wide appeal and large scale audiences.
The 2017-18 Volvo Ocean Race starts on October 22 and no doubt this will distract a bit heading up to the race, but we hope all eyes will be on the crews (like our own TotalBoat Ambassadors, Charlie Enright and Nick Dana on Team Vestas 11th Hour Racing) as they battle what should prove to be one of the toughest courses in one of the hardest races for monohulls.
In the America’s Cup Arena, ironically, as the VOR looks to moving to a foiling, perhaps multihull faceted event, the Cup Defenders, Team New Zealand, and their new Challenger of Record, the Italians, have already taken the multihull format of their last few race series OFF the table. With a move to monohulls, the crowds are either cheering or crying as the Cup, once the forefront of sailing technology, seems to step back a bit and cater to the old-school one hull ways. What is left to learn, though, is exactly what kind of monohulls they choose. Also hanging in question is Nationality requirements, long spoken about and formerly used, albeit with some large loopholes that allowed a sailor to move to the country, get an apartment and some utilities and be considered a “resident.”
Team New Zealand had many complaints about how Oracle Team USA formatted the event, and the boats used to sail in it – despite the kiwis coming up with the obviously faster package. It’s not known yet where the race will be held or what the race format will be with regards to the world series held in advance, and even for the cup races. It is possible it will be held in Italy or in New Zealand – or anywhere else!
Tune in on Friday to get the news about this big change to the America’s Cup always contested protocol. One thing is certain – people will be thrilled and others will be very disappointed. And it’s very possible the new boat will also use foiling assistance on the monohulls just as the Volvo Ocean Race is doing.
Team New Zealand under the The Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron and Circolo della Vela Sicilia as the Challenger of Record, together with their respective representative teams Emirates Team New Zealand and Luna Rossa Challenge, will release the Protocol establishing the parameters for the 36th America’s Cup on Friday, September 29 at 10am NZT. Once released, surf over to SailingScuttlebutt.com where they will share the Protocol and highlight the key points of the document.