A Formidable Fleet

The five new boats in the Volvo Ocean Race share many traits, which should deliver close racing from start to finish. "Tech Review" from our Nov/Dec 2011 issue.

November 2, 2011

Sailing a Volvo 70 is as much about sailing fast as it is an exercise in managing violence—on the boat and the crew—and minimizing damage and downtime. And this exercise lies squarely on the shoulders of the design team. They must deliver to the sailors a boat that can handle the violence, and be sailed efficiently in a wide and unpredictable range of conditions. As the Volvo Ocean Race welcomes the third generation of Volvo Open 70s, the fleet—which includes five new designs and one boat (Team Sanya) from the previous race—is more uniform than ever, which will make for a closer race all around. But while the hulls and rigs may be more in line, there have been plenty of other areas in the rule for the sailors and designers to exploit—all in the name of efficiency and weight.

›› Designed by Marcelino Botin, with TNZ design team
›› Daggerboards canted away from keel
›› Third grinding pedestal mounted between wheels to move weight aft and facilitate crew communication_

_ Photo: María Muiña_


The trend across the fleet is toward boats that are good in all conditions. Camper‘s design, however, is the outlier when it comes to hull and foil configurations. Head designer Marcelino Botin is not a stranger to the Volvo 70, having designed_ il mostro _for PUMA Ocean Racing’s first effort. “We know for sure you need a boat that’s very competitive when the wind is above 30 knots; you have to be very fast in those conditions,” says Botin. “But the boats have to be really fast in so many different conditions, and this is where we have tried to go.”

The daggerboards on Camper are located slightly aft of the mast, angled outboard, and the keel is forward of the mast. The configuration is a concession to improving upwind performance; the theory being that when the boat is heeled the daggerboards become vertical, and generate maximum lift. “Gaining balance [between the sail plan and hull/appendages] is very difficult,” says Botin. “But after extensive testing, and having sailed a lot of miles, we’re pretty happy with [the daggerboard] position.”

Deck layouts on the boats are the ultimate realm of compromise. Adding weight with gear that ‘pampers’ the crew essentially does not happen. “You can ask the sailors what they want [to make life easier], but they just want to go fast,” says Botin. “When the boat is fast and ahead, that is what really makes them go hard.”


The focus on Camper has been to concentrate weight aft and position the on-deck crew close together for better communication. Thus, the third winch pedestal is positioned behind the mainsail winch it drives, even with the helm stations.

›› The third boat from Kouyoumdjian
›› Heavily influenced by Ericsson 4
›› Pyramid structure on aft corners creates better lead for downwind sail sheets and running backstays

_ Photo: Chris Cameron_


Juan Kouyoumdjian, whose designs have won the two previous editions (ABN AMRO One and Ericsson 4), has three horses in this year’s race: PUMA Ocean Racing’s mar mostro, Telefonica, and Groupama 4. He’s the only one in his design office privy to all three boats.

This is the second campaign for the Spanish Telefonica team, which fielded a two-boat program with Farr Yacht Design in the last race. The team’s approach was to use _Ericsson 4 _as a starting point.

“The new route is not much different than before, so we had our benchmark to start from and made choices where we wanted to be,” says Horacio Carabelli, Telefonica’s technical director. “This boat is slightly different than the traditional Volvo 70 we’ve seen. The Open 60s you see now are more of what we are trying to achieve.”


The daggerboards on Telefonica are forward of the mast and canted slightly inward below the waterline. This is also the case with a few other boats in the fleet, the theory being the boards will produce vertical lift when the boat is sailing off the wind without as much heel, getting the bow up out of the water and promoting surfing.

“We concentrated a lot on aerodynamics and ergonomics with this design,” says Carabelli. “The cabin house is actually more part of the deck than it is its own structure. Aerodynamically, it’s good.”

The deck slopes downward as it reaches the cockpit, though the sheerline is straight, as required by the Volvo Open 70 rule. This creates greater volume forward yet still presents a smooth hull through the water.

Telefonica also has a pyramid structure built into each aft quarter of the boat, which allows the team to raise spinnaker turning blocks and, for Telefonica and the Farr-designed Abu Dhabi, the running backstays as well. A higher block position essentially creates a longer boat for the sheet lead, improving trim on the big reaching and running sails.

“You do pay a price in weight,” says Carabelli. “That’s the balance—how much weight to put into that structure before it is no longer faster.”

›› Another boat from Juan Kouyoumdjian
›› Traveler winches were left off initially, added later
›› To generate optimal sheet leads, some winches spin will counterclockwise

_ Photo: Dan Armstrong Photography

_ _

For PUMA Ocean Racing, one of the significant changes this time around was the decision to train in two different venues, seeking out both light and windy conditions. Since the race rules allow only one boat and limit the number of days a team can sail, it’s no surprise that PUMA narrowed in on a conservative, well-rounded design.

“It’s not a different boat [from Ericsson 4], if looking on the outside, but there are a lot of things going on,” says watch captain Brad Jackson, who managed the design and build. “We chose to point the design in a certain direction and not put ourselves in too much of a corner. You have to be fast in everything. Overall, I think most boats are probably pretty good up-range and middle range, with a little less expected in the lighter stuff.”

If there’s a status quo in deck layout, mar mostro is perhaps the best example. The team initially went without the small, traveler-control winches forward of the wheels for weight savings, using the offside primary winch to trim the traveler and jammers to lock it in place during tacks and jibes. After a few thousand miles of sailing, however, the team installed the traveler winches.

›› Designed by Farr Yacht Design
›› Open cockpit makes for easier boathandling and lowers sail stack
›› Cabin house is integrated into cambered deck

_ Photo: Ian Roman/Volvo Ocean Race


Abu Dhabi has the only boat in the fleet from Farr Yacht Design, which has a very long history with the race. The boat’s unique cockpit design is an evolution of the two Farr-designed Telefonica boats from 2008-’09. The open cockpit, with no sidedecks aft of the companionway, reduces the number of winches to nine. The voids created between the winch pods serve as space for stacking sails. The use of this space is especially important this time around, as the race rules no longer allow teams to stack sails below in the aft-most portion of the hull (which was an extremely challenging task for the crews). It also concentrates the weight of the sails further outboard when the boat is heeled, and provides a wave barrier for the crew.

“Water management” is how Farr Yacht Design president Pat Shaughnessy describes dealing with the green water constantly rushing across the deck, which inevitably takes a toll on the sailors. The camber of the foredeck blends almost seamlessly into the cabinhouse. Having fewer obstructions, which can send water cascading in every direction, provides some element of protection in the pit area on either side, where there are four utility winches, two per side (one of which was added since the launch).

The daggerboards are nearly vertical and positioned forward of the keel. This seems to indicate a desire to find the sweet spot between upwind performance (where outward cant helps) and reaching (where straight and inward cant helps), without going too far either direction.

›› One of three boats from Juan Kouyoumdjian
›› Crew is loaded with shorthanded ocean-racing talent Deck layout reflects this
›› The double crash rail in front of each wheel is standard across the fleet

_ Photo: Ian Roman/Volvo Ocean Race_

Groupama’s sailing team doesn’t have quite the depth of Volvo experience as its competitors, but it’s laden with the world’s best singlehanded offshore racing talent. They have no less than six top-shelf helmsmen, and the requisite alumni of the victorious Ericsson program.

Groupama 4 _has a similar cockpit configuration to that of _Telefonica and mar mostro, and plenty of volume forward. The deck layout shows quite a few differences in hardware locations, characteristics that reflect the shorthanded makeup of their crew. There are 10 winches total, including a set of small winches for the traveler control and the runner winches well forward, ahead of even the large primary winch, but on a direct line from the block to the winch, eliminating the friction of a turning sheave. Three utility winches are spread across the pit area behind three separate banks of clutches and organizers, a trade-off between adding weight but improving handling. The team also created robust pyramids in the aft corners, much like with Abu Dhabi and Telefonica. This is a hint their sail-design program may be focused on off-the-wind sailing, but as with everything in this race, only time and hard-earned miles will tell.


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