With predicted speeds in excess of 35kts, the new Volvo Open 70 is set to break records

On the day that the world’s premier ocean race celebrates its 30th birthday, design rules reveal that a record-beater is in prospect for the next round the world Volvo Ocean Race. The new 70ft yacht, the Volvo Open 70, will be a significantly more powerful boat for the 2005-2006 event.

The new breed will have real presence. The mast towers 100ft above the deck and is close in height to the masts of the 80ft inshore America’s Cup racers. Carrying the maximum, their sails would blanket a doubles tennis court nearly three times over.

The current monohull record for distance covered in 24 hours is 484 nautical miles, set by illbruck in the last edition of the race. Computers are already predicting that the new marque, will achieve top speeds in excess of 35kts, blasting through the 500 nautical mile in a day barrier. That eclipses the feats of the clipper ships, which, up to four times as long, and with crews up to 50, thundered their way to legendary fame in the 19th century. “If you were to compare the new boats with the VO60s, the boats raced for the last three events, the new Volvo Open 70s will be 20 or 21 days quicker around the world,” says Volvo’s racing director, Andy Hindley. The winning time of 123 racing days last time should come down to 103 days, making it a tempting target for those who want to break the 100-day barrier.

“Racing around the world is all about a high speed adventure in the deep Southern Oceans,” says race veteran, Ludde Ingvall. “The Volvo Ocean Race is as much man against the elements, as man against man, team against team, boat against boat.” Ingvall adds, ” While our Nicorette and Skandia Maxi Racing Teams in the past have not been too excited with the ‘old Volvo 60’, the new Volvo 70 promises to be not only the fastest ever boat of this size, but one of the most spectacular offshore racing yachts ever produced. Demanding, fast and exhilarating, yet safe.”

Three-time race veteran, Erle Williams, had this to say: “The new Volvo Open 70 boats will be dynamic to sail. They are longer, lighter, more powerful and have more sail area. What more do you need for speed? 500-mile days will be common and top speeds should exceed 40 knots in extreme conditions. There will be an even bigger demand for talent and experience to win in this new era of ocean racing.”

Neal and Lisa McDonald, both skippers in the last race and who recently announced their joint campaign for the next Volvo Ocean Race, are equally impressed. “These new boats are going to be rocket ships – powerful, light and demanding to sail. A new boat and a new race format will take an already proven event to a new level. Potential sponsors have more to gain by taking part in this event than ever before,” says Neal. Lisa adds, “‘People, preparation and technology are the key factors in a successful Volvo Ocean Race campaign. With just over two years to the start, the clock is ticking.”

Staged every four years, the Volvo Ocean Race 2005-2006 is due to start on 5 November, 2005 from a southern European port to be announced later this year. The course will take the fleet to Cape Town, Melbourne, New Zealand, Rio de Janeiro, Baltimore, New York, Southampton and Gothenburg before finishing in the Baltic in June 2006.

Each team will select its own designers and will decide where to build the carbonfibre hulls and decks. The length and beam of the boat will be restricted, but the carbonfibre mast will be built to a common set of parameters. Although the draft of the boat and the minimum weight of the lead-bulbed canting or swing keels will be set, the design remains open. Some syndicates have already indicated they want to build their single, new boat early; others may continue researching as long as possible and build late. It is expected that the first Volvo Open 70s will be sailing in the second half of 2004.