Handicapping the Fleet
Handicapping the Fleet
In less than a year, the starting gun will fire on the world’s premier crewed global ocean race. So far, six teams have officially entered the Volvo Ocean Race, and an equal number of teams are still dreaming of making the start. While race CEO Knut Frostad has often predicted 10 entries, the current economic climate has made it hard even for established teams to find the financing they need. So, who will make it to the starting line, and who will win?
The Official Entries (in alphabetical order)
The leaders of Abu Dhabi have long expressed interest in the Volvo, but Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing is the last of the major players to officially enter the race. Last may not be least, however, given the talents of skipper Ian Walker and his High Aspect project management company. Walker cut his teeth with the cash-strapped Green Dragon syndicate last time around, but now has budget rumored to approach 25 million Euro. He has no excuse not to be competitive this time around. The team purchased Puma Avanti (nee ABN Amro 2, the world’s second fastest monohull) as a training yacht, and quietly sent it to New England Boatworks in Newport, R.I., this past spring for some work before shipping it to the Middle East.
Crew selection and trials have begun, and while the team has yet to make any official announcements, it's safe to assume that many of Walker’s lieutenants from Green Dragon will be headed to Abu Dhabi this winter. The team is also committed to finding Emirati nationals to join the sailing and shore team. "We are searching for a compatriot with steely determination, enduring physicality, strength of mind, quick intelligence, and dynamic personality to be part of our multinational crew who will aim to win honors for the Emirate. Whoever is selected will take on the considerable responsibility of working towards, and sharing, the aspirations of their homeland," said His Highness Sheikh Sultan Bin Tahnoon Al Nahyan, chairman of Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority. Applications were set to close October 24, but you can still apply through the team website, providing you meet the nationality and eligibility requirements.
Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing has chosen Farr Yacht Design to create its new boat, and construction is underway at Italy’s PERSICO yard, under the direction of master builder Jason Carrington. This is the same yard that built Americas Cup yachts like Luna Rossa and Il Moro de Venzia; the Abu Dhabi project but will be their first Volvo Open 70. The safe choice would have been another Juan Yacht Design variant, but Walker has a longstanding relationship with Farr, and the firm is eager to return to the level of offshore design prominence achieved under the Volvo 60 rule. For the last race, Farr designed the Telefonica boats, which were light-air weapons. But Abu Dhabi will need more power to keep up with the new generation of Juan K and B&C designs in power reaching conditions. Farr’s experiments with bow strakes will likely be absent in this Abu Dhabi design, as well.
The team will have to work hard this winter to make up for the sailing time and development it missed this summer. But with sailing time limited by race rules, Walker’s team should be able to catch up with the other teams by sailing in the warm Persian Gulf this winter. While currently a wild card, don’t count this team out for overall honors next year.