Australian Nick Moloney, who has been working on the Pirates of the Caribbean Volvo Ocean Race project as consultant coach to the team, previews the VOR

Australian Nick Moloney, who has been working on the Pirates of the Caribbean Volvo Ocean Race project as consultant coach to the team, previews the VOR.

Seven boats and teams are preparing to face off in this edition of the Volvo Ocean Race 2005-06. A new race route with a new breed of high performance sailing yacht has created an open forum for boat design and called for a highly specialized breed of sailor. The new rule has produced an extremely fast yacht that is demanding on crews yet it has also enticed new designers into the arena that has been previously dominated by the Farr Yacht Design. New faces like Juan Kouyoumdjian from Argentina and Australian Don Jones have brought a refreshing, more radical look to the VOR round the world course.

Ericsson (Sweden), Brasil 1 (Brazil), Pirates of the Caribbean (USA) and Telefonica MoviStar (Spain) are all Farr designs. Of the four, the Spanish boat has had the longest build up and is now the current 24-hour monohull world speed record holder. She has been tested over more sea miles that any of her competitors and is the only one to have tasted the Southern Ocean. Visually, the biggest difference between MoviStar and the three other Farr boats is that she has a chine (a hard edge) in her stern section, the remaining three look pretty much the same equipped with single rudder and twin daggerboards – but don’t be fooled.

The skipper of Telefonica MoviStar is Bouwe Bekking fromThe Netherlands, also co-skipper of Amer Sports with Grant Dalton in the last race and rated as a world-class helmsman. Bouwe has been vocal about his focus on the importance of sails and he is surrounded by testing and sail knowledge within his crew. Most sailors will agree that time on the water getting to know and develop your tools is key. For this reason, this team should be richer in knowledge but they will have to work hard and not rest on their laurels and their current 24-hour speed record is almost sure to be bettered in this race. Speed, decision-making and reliability are important ingredients needed to win this race. Having bounced their boat over more waves than their opposition must be reassuring at this stage.

The next Farr boat to hit the water has been the Brazilian team with the local man, decorated with five Olympic sailing medals, Torben Grael, at the helm. This is a very strong team with an interesting mix of small boat (Olympic class) sailors and offshore veterans. They boast the only female crewmember in the fleet in Navigator Adrienne Cahalan (Australia). Adrienne holds the current title of fastest female non-stop circumnavigation of the world under sail. (‘PlayStation’ Jules Verne) Many say that women are better decision makers under pressure than men?hhhmmmm, this could be a dangerous combination.

Both Ericsson and Pirates of the Caribbean are effectively ‘sisterships’ as they were built at the same construction facility in the UK using the same tooling and moulds. These boats were quite late in their planning yet are both in incredible hands. These sister-ships though, are not identical twins.

Ericsson was launched a handful of weeks prior to Pirates of the Caribbean and at this stage of the game time to prepare is golden. The team headed by Neal McDonald (GBR) skipper of Assa Abloy, second place getter in the last edition of this race. Neal has a world title in the 14ft skiff class amongst his accolades but it is his attitude and motivation skills that place him amongst the worlds best team leaders. He has gathered together an impressive list of ocean racing and short course gurus. These are tough men who are known for the wild ‘hard core’ approach to sailing, an approach that can pay handsomely in difficult conditions like the Southern Ocean. It’s a re-grouping of many faces from the Silk Cut era where Neal was watch captain under the leadership of Lawrie Smith. This team has also considered the importance of the inshore points scoring of the overall race and have drawn specialised onboard input for these criteria by including John Kostecki USA, winning skipper in last race with Illbruck. This time it will be more John’s short course skills that have earned him multiple world championship crowns that this team will utilize.

Paul Cayard heads up the Walt Disney Pirates of the Caribbean team. Paul is the ultimate professional and the charismatic winner of the 97-98 Race as Skipper of EF Language. Paul is an ocean racing skipper, an Americas Cup skipper, an Olympian and World Champion. His skill and determination attracts the best crews as well as earns trophies. This project is late, very late, but that fact has made this team focused and more determined. Paul is surrounded by several members of his past race winning formula and other past race winners and world champions alike. This team of Pirates are treasure hungry and will take no prisoners!

The two new design faces to this arena are well known International fast radical boat designers both with their own long list of pedigree winners in a variety of classes.

Don Jones from Australia has designed a very different looking boat that, from a sailing point of view, looks user friendly which is very important when you consider where these boats will be going and the demands on crew. The onboard systems look clean and light giving the overall impression that weight saving has been a big consideration. The hull shape is radical and she is the only boat to opt towards one single symmetrical, centre line dagger board and two stern rudders. The unfortunate side of this project is it has struggled financially and may never get the chance to show her design potential or the promise of her team, but they know how to win. The nucleus of this team stems from skipper Grant Wharrington’s ‘Wild Thing Yachting’ projects that have won great races such as the Sydney-Hobart classic with the Don Jones-designed maxi Skandia.

Juan Kouyoumdjian has burst into this design arena with two well funded and well presented powerful looking boats ABN Amro 1 and ABN Amro 2. This is the only two-boat team and the benefits are evident prior to the start. Number 2 was built and tested first, and the lessons learnt have been used to develop the number 1 boat, this looks like a sailors boat with many small tweaks that have clearly come from sailing input based on real experiences onboard ABN 2. This boat is strikingly different to the others; they are wide hulls with chines. Both have two large asymmetric dagger boards and twin stern rudders. These boats are clearly of a different mind-set to the Farr opposition and it will be very interesting to see who has the best overall configurations.

ABN Amro 1 is skippered by Mike Sanderson (NZL), he is young at 34, very talented and very experienced across the board from Americas Cup to solo and short handed and fully crewed offshore. This will be his third edition of this race and he is a past winner. Mike is the protégé of his mentor Grant Dalton with whom he has sailed around the world twice. He is backed by a full professional team made up of past winners and record breakers. Watch Captain Mark Christensen has won the last two editions of this race, this is the calibre of this team. Mike is highly experienced from his Open 60 racing in Pindar, in the new canting keel and daggerboard concepts and configurations new to this race. Mike is a great leader, hard as nails, with fantastic sense of humour.

ABN Amro 2 is skippered by young French solo sailing star Sebastian Josse. Sebastian is famous in France for his sailing endeavours that include outright round the world sailing speed record in 2002 on Orange, and top five finish in the 04-05 Vendee Globe solo round the world yacht race. The team consists of sailors from all corners of the globe that have survived a critical selection process constructed by the team to find the best sailors in the world less than 30 years of age. As the younger brothers to ABN 1, the boat oozes determination to not just beat big brother but to ‘stick it’ to all the big boys!

These two boats are in a corner of the design rule, power is key yet they may suffer in the lighter winds this should never be more evident than in leg one but they have had the luxury of two boat testing to help decide sail inventory and optimum sailing mode?we shall see.

Each team has faced a rigorous critical decision making period, from designer, builder, crew, mast, sails etc?its time to lay their cards on the table and show the world their hand.