Code Zero sails will not be used in the next Volvo Ocean Race

The organisers of the Volvo Ocean Race have decided not to allow Code Zero sails in the next race. These huge sails were introduced in 1997-98 to improve upwind performance but they were not popular among those who used them: “Code Zeros were a nightmare,” says Ross Field, who skippered Yahama to a win in the 1993-94 event.

For the next Volvo Ocean Race, a new, faster raceboat – the Volvo Open 70 – will be used. It is based on a new set of rules, and as always that opens up the possibilities for interpretation. “We want to safeguard the spirit that we had when we created the rules and therefore we have decided to spell out that Code Zero sails are not allowed,” says Volvo Ocean Race CEO, Glenn Bourke.

Code Zero sails are huge – 330sq m, approximately four times the size of a roomy two-bedroom apartment.

Bourke continues: “With a new raceboat, it’s important to create a definitive theme around which the evolution of the class is formed. There is always a risk of loopholes, but the decision to close out Code Zero sails maintains our original ideas.”

In considering the situation, event organisers took into account the ability of the crews to efficiently and effectively sail the boat. The fatigue due to slightly reduced crew numbers as well as the development cost for sails, masts and hydraulic handling systems and safety were the primary concerns.

The decision was also based on comments from sailors who competed in the 2001-02 event; Ross Field continued: “In the last race when we had the Code Zeros up in 10-12 knots of wind, bashing into a head sea, we were just waiting for something to break or the rig to be pulled out of the boat. It was an all hands on deck to get the things down even though it was light breeze.”

At any rate, the new Volvo Open 70 yacht is predicted to break the 500 nautical miles a day barrier, being up to 21 days quicker around the world. This will bring the number of racing days down to 103 from 123 in the last event, even when the controversial Code Zero sail was permitted.