Introducing the Volvo 65 one design part 2

We take a closer look at the design of the new Volvo Ocean Race steed

Tuesday July 3rd 2012, Author: James Boyd, Location: none selected

This article follows on from part 1 published here

At present - it should be emphasised – the VOD65 design is very much a work in process and while the broad concept has been established there is still much to be done to refine the numbers and finalise the detail.

To our eye the VOD65 it is a good looking boat. We like the multihull-style dreadnought bow (didn’t see something like this on the first ABN AMRO boat?), which Volvo Ocean Race CEO Knut Frostad explains “is a way of putting a 65ft boat on steroids. We would like this to be the fastest 65ft boat around.” So while the boat is 65ft on deck it is around 67ft on the water line and with bowsprit it is around 72ft overall.

“We have looked at lots of different bow options from going without a bowsprit to going with all kinds of things but this is where we landed in the end and it gives the boat a signature which is important to us,” says Frostad.

The rig is also further aft in the boat compared to a VO70, so with the mast 1.2m shorter some sails such as the genniker are expected to be bigger than those used on the VO70s believes Frostad.

To make it more manageable for the reduced crew, so the sail wardrobe has been further reduced from 10 to 7 and without the hefty overlapping genoa so none of the working headsails will be overlapping on the 65. “We are looking at the move towards more furling sails and possibly even leaving sails up as a way to reduce stacking and just pure muscle required for the handling of the boats,” says Farr Yacht Design President Pat Shaughnessy. “And by having less sails in your inventory you have less sails to step between as you go across your crossovers, so you make the boat much more manageable and cost effective.”

The VOD65’s sail wardrobe will comprise a mainsail plus a masthead Code 0, an A3-type asymmetric spinnaker, a fractional code 0, which would be the heavy weather running sail. The biggest upwind headsail would be the non-overalapping J1, followed by a smaller J4 and then a combined staysail/storm jib.

The organisers have yet to decide whether the sails will be fully one design or not, however we suspect the former unless they want campaign costs to escalate significantly.

However in removing the large overlapping genoa they have had to boost light wind performance and the result has been an increase in rig height and main sail area. As a result the boat will certainly have to be reefed earlier.

Performance-wise, the end result will still be exhilarating but marginally slower than the VO70, although Shaughnessy says they have been trying hard to reduce the loss in performance which he believes is around 3% down across the board compared to the 70. But with its high sail area:displacement ratio, one imagines there could be some occasions downwind when it will be at least as fast as the 70.

While the spar supplier has yet to be finalised, the VOD65 at present features a deck-stepped (rather than keel stepped) mast. At one time de rigeur in the IMOCA 60 class, the advantage of this arrangement is that it simplifies the structure down below, improves the water tight integrity of the deck and also makes the stepping and unstopping of the mast a simpler ‘plug-in’ operation.

But isn’t a deck-stepped mast less tweaky? “I think there is a healthy amount of scepticism there, but with the people we are working with and the suppliers it does seem like they are able to be overcome and there is experience in that type of rig that has led us as a group of boat designers, spar designers and sail makers to become comfortable with that,” says Shaughnessy.

Another design development that the new boat will feature (although Juan K originally tried it on ABN AMRO Two before it was banned) is that the keel pin axis will be inclined up at the forward end. This has the effect of moving the CoG of the bulb further aft the further as the bulb is canted.

A significant issue that remains to be addresses is how the VOD65 with its seven sails and eight crew can be driven around an in-port race with any semblance of skill and elegance. According to Frostad that is still under discussion. “We are working with the sailors on is how we set it up inshore. For example, having only furling sails – that will change that quite a lot and the big overlapping genoa we have at the moment is a huge challenge for them and we might only have furling gennikers which will change things quite a bit.”

Crew protection

Crew protection is finally being addressed with the new VOD65. Already some of the VO70s have panels to help protect the helmsman being washed off the wheel, but this has only achieved limited success.

Shaughnessy points out that firstly due to the shape of the VO65’s deck camber, the freeboard at the mast will in fact be higher than it is on the VO70 while its freeboard forward is higher for its length.

The hard (rather than curved) sheer line also affects how spray flies on board. Rather than wrapping around the curved sheer, this pushes the spray up higher.

In addition more investigation is being put into further protecting the helm position, not just from the river of green water flying aft but also from ‘Telefonica’ style waves breaking over the boat from the beam or stern. “We are looking at some radical innovations,” says Frostad. “You can’t protect the helmsman completely because he’d have to stand inside a box, but if you can protect the helmsman from the waist down it is a massive difference because at the moment they are getting their legs washed away when they are driving.”

So it is likely that the frame around each helming position will be filled in to some degree. The question is how much to fill it in. “The helmsmen don’t want to be enclosed. They want to feel and see and communicate, so it is finding the right amount. We are working with the sailors trying to figure that out now,” says Shaughnessy.

Elsewhere in the cockpit, aside from the increased depth and the protection the significant feature are the twin companionways, again a feature often seen on IMOCA 60s and which last featured in the VOR aboard the Volvo 60 SEB. The idea is to allow crew to clamber down below from the high side but it also creates an easier passage for manoeuvring sails down below from on deck or back up. This also makes it more appropriate to have all the ‘machinery’ fitted on the centreline of the boat down below. Also to assist in this the three pedestals (they tried to shed one, but three were demanded by the crew) are now in line.

Down below the layout is expected to be similar to that of the present VO70s, including the space directly under the cockpit where the nav station is tackable, allowing anyone sitting at it to be perched up to weather.

One difference is that at present they are looking at having a single engine (rather than engine and generator). Given that Volvo the car company is almost certain to be launching a hydrid vehicle in the future (if it hasn’t done so already) then it would surely also make sense for the designers to be looking hard at the use of hydrogenerators and solar panels to reduce the amount of fuel the boats use. This would have the added advantage of allowing boats to carry less fuel and/or more prolonged use of the satcom equipment for beaming back live video, etc. Pat Shaughnessy says they haven't got that far yet.


On the build side due to the time frame required to churn out a minimum run of eight VOD65s, (but presumably also to spread the financial love) so Green Marine in Hythe will be assembling the boats with the hulls built at Persico in Italy, the deck by Multiplast in France and various other mouldings, such as bulkheads, by Decision SA in Switzerland. Up to 10 can be built and more if they get the opportunity to introduce a second set of tooling.

Frostad says that a key part of the process in developing the VOD65 has been in the involvement of the builders in each key design decision. In particular they have looked at ways of building the boat that reduce cost. “For example, if you look at the top sides and the joint with the deck it is a sharp 90deg joint [on the VOD65] because it is extremely cost efficient compared to what the guys are doing today on the VO70s. That whole corner they have around the gunnel costs an enormous amount of money. And it is the same with the structure in the boat – we want everything so that it pops out of moulds properly and is easy to laminate, etc.”

They are also looking at building the VOD65 so that it is monolithic (ie no core) in the hull between the two longitudinals and there is also likely to be increased use of foam core rather than Nomex.

But one of the most significant issues facing the builders, particularly with parts coming from a multitude of suppliers, is ensuring that the boats remain as identical and as truly ‘one design’ as possible. Shaughnessy shares his view: “I think it will be a slightly different structure of one design because it will be what you could call a ‘builder-certified one design class’ so there won’t be a rule that has dimensions and tolerances and weights you can operate in. You will get a boat that is a one design and then you are not permitted to do anything - all the maintenance will be done by a support team.”

So teams will be able deal with their own branding, and the shore crew will be able to move the boat around, clean and tidy it up, etc but that is about it.

“A successful one design is conceived at the beginning,” Shaughnessy continues. “It is not a boat and then a rule, it is a boat and a rule and a concept that are all advanced together so that is really what we are doing. I don’t think it would be adequate to arrive at the end and just slap corrector weights on to try and make the boats equal and figure it out are you go. We have to know exactly how it is going to work before we start making anything.” It should be remembered that when it comes to one designs historically Farr has been the world’s most successful and prolific firm of naval architects.

So how one design is the 65 expected to be? According to Shaughnessy, on a displacement that at present is 10.75 tonnes, the difference between boats will be no more than 20-30kg. “The group of sailors we have, the audience we have, I don’t think we underestimate the amount of scrutiny we’ll be under. There are going to be a lot of people eager to point out the faults and there are significant challenges in large one design boats...”

Of course any weight differences will be equalised at a local level (eg mast, boom, etc) with correctors.

Less stopovers?

Several teams have pointed to the large number of stopovers and the logistics of getting gear between them as representing a significant cost for campaign. Frostad says they have identified areas of the campaigns and the race that offer little return for sponsors, but he categorically confirms that the stopovers are not one. “There are some people who say ‘you shouldn’t touch the boat - you should just reduce the stopovers.’ Well as to whether the boat should be 65 or 70ft, the feedback we have from every single sponsor is that they would prefer the smaller boat because [with the 70] they only pay more money and they don’t see any benefit of the boat being 5ft longer.

"However every stopover you drop has a massive impact on the return on investment and the sponsors we have today, most of them are in this race because of the globality of the event. So it is not an objective of us to go back to four or five ports.”

Frostad acknowledges that the stopovers in Lisbon and Lorient have, relative to other stopovers, been long, but this was necessary because it wasn’t possible to get the Lisbon stopover broken down and moved to Galway in a shorter period.

While it would have been great to see the VO70 kept – it has progressed offshore monohull design in a significant way over the last decade – we agree that of way more importance is trying to grow the fleet once again. We just hope that the 65 proves reasonably indestructible.



Latest Comments

  • KingMonkey 03/07/2012 - 16:02

    Apart from the rather screaming question of 'Why isn't JuanK - whose record both on competitiveness an reliability is rather better than the Farr office's over the last 3 races', I do have concerns about how far they've gone down the "strict" one design rule. I suppose, if you give people leeway to - say - take a one design hull but develop their own foils they will then just go and spend X millions on that, but there really doesn't seem to be any possibility for development at all. For me, as a sailor, this was one of the main things that made the race interesting. It's not like it's possible to admire the crew work so the different paths taken by different boats on design have always been the key interest. Perhaps sails may be a possibility, but I rather doubt it given the route they've taken on everything else.

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