The Volvo Ocean Race boat, the Volvo Ocean 65 was pencilled by Farr Yacht Design in 2012, and seven of these monohulls sailed in both the 2014-15 and 2017-18 Volvo Ocean Races (VOR).

Amid discussion about a new boat for the next race, in 2021 or thereabouts it had become ‘de riguer’ to call the Volvo Ocean 65 slow and outdated. So, it was somewhat surprising when the Simeon Tienpont skippered Volvo 65 AkzoNobel set a new 602.51 nautical mile 24-hour VOR record suggesting that these boats are no slouches.

Jules Salter, was the navigator aboard Torben Grael’s Volvo 70 Ericsson 4 in the first leg of the 2008 VOR when they rode a strong Atlantic cold front during the Alicante to Cape Town leg 596.6 nm in 24 hours. He is the navigator on AkzoNobel and in Cardiff, and told Rob Kothe how the stars, indeed the race track, aligned.

Leg 9, from Newport to Cardiff, day 4 on board Team AkzoNobel. Jules Salter. 23 May, 2018.

“The northern route out of Newport was an option all through the build-up to the race,” says Salter. “However, we concluded that the models never quite pick up how weak the wind is up that way over the colder water, with wind shear and the lack of pressure.

“We figured it would be better to go south-east to the Gulf Stream and so it was.

“In fact, the wind was more left shifted and windier when we were still on the right side of the front on the warm side of it.

“Also, the orientation of the wind at the front because the wind was so far left shifted it kept us in the Gulf stream more directly, and it curved to the right, which helped with the Great Circle distance. Normally when you are sailing due east you are cutting through the stream but this time we were in it, it was not really strong but a good flow for most of the 24-hour run did give us a few miles.

“With a perfect wind angle and a long runway, we ripped off the miles quickly with the Gulf stream current adding miles to the 24-hour record. We probably had an average of 2 to 2 ½ knots, so that was 60 miles in the 24 hours.

“I think the key thing was the way the current also affected the sea state, made it smoother water, to begin with, so that helped these boats go fast if you are not digging the bow in.”

Leg 9, from Newport to Cardiff, day 3 on board Team AkzoNobel. Making good progress with good speed and fair winds. 22 May, 2018.

How long the Volvo Ocean Race Record stand?

How long this record might stand depends on the boat to replace or join with the Volvo 65 in the 2021 race.

The Volvo Board rejected then CEO Mark Turner’s plans for a one design IMOCA style foiling 60-footer and the new boat decision was pushed into the future – one of the key reasons he resigned in November 2017.

Now with the transfer of ownership to the management group within the VOR, Atlant Ocean Racing Spain headed by Richard Brisius, Johan Salén and Jan Litborn it is possible that there might be two classes with the race.

The successful and very durable Volvo Ocean 65 and another as yet unnamed class – but very possibly the much-loved foiling IMOCA60 as the VOR has already held discussions with the IMOCA Board, about making the IMOCA 60 the new boat.

Having two classes with up to eight Volvo Ocean 65s and say another 8 IMOCA 60s would certainly reinvigorate the race, although it would put strains on many of the current stopover venues.

So interesting times ahead… but it is worth noting that the current IMOCA 60 24 hour record is a much shorter but still healthy 537 nm set by Alex Thompson in January 2017 – though he did achieve this solo.

Still, in that context, the new record by AkzoNobel is hardly shabby and if two classes come to fruition it would certainly set the scene for interesting inter-class competition.

Who holds the outright 24 hour monohull record?

Comanche, Jim Clark and Kristy Hinze-Clark’s 100-footer set the outright 24 hour monohull record in 2015, with a 17-man crew, who after some months of waiting for the perfect weather window lit out from New York and used the same Gulf stream runway used by the VOR 65’s. This fat bottom girl is reputed to be the fastest monohull on the planet.

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