The occasion was the third in a series of 'round table' meetings where future plans for the race are presented and explained. The Galway sessions follows similar presentations held in Rio de Janeiro and in Boston. In Ireland, special guests invited to attend included, amongst others, French multihull ace Franck CAMMAS, solo sailors Rolans JOURDAIN and Jean-Luc NELIAS and noted French America's Cup sailor Luc GELLUSEAU.
Volvo Ocean Race CEO Knut FROSTAD opened his presentation by explaining again why and how the race must embrace changes so as to become more successful in the future.
"Just like any sailing project the more time we have to prepare ourselves, the better the chances are we have of doing a good job," he said. "Our number one objective is to increase the number of competitors in the next race. We know that we need a larger fleet in the future for the race to be able to reach its full potential."
According to FROSTAD there are three pillars to work on to get more teams on the water in the future. The first element is a technical cost containment and reduction programme, the second an increase on the value to teams, sponsors and ports involved in the race, and the third is to keep the race seriously attractive to the best sailors in the world.
"An important element in achieving more boats on the start line in Alicante in 2011 is a reduction of costs and an increase in value for the teams. In the short term, whilst the race is going on and whilst everyone has it fresh in their minds and is focused we have to work on the cost reduction side of the equation. To that end, changes already announced include a reduction in crew members, from 11 to 10, and nearly a 40% reduction in race sails," FROSTAD outlined.
Today, FROSTAD and his team which includes renowned racing class technical expert Ken MCALPINE and rules expert Bill EDGERTON, explained further elements of change.
They included the crew make-up for the next race. In an effort to encourage female participation, the new rule will allow 'female' teams to carry 12 sailors, including the media crew, two of whom may be men. This represents two extra crew members over an all-male crew.
In terms of the Volvo Open 70 Class Rule, the maximum weight for the keel fin and bulb will be set at 7,400kgs in the future. There will also be a minimum keel fin weight to be defined at a later date. The fin will be required to be solid, with no fairings permitted.
The weight of the yacht is to be increased so that it may fit into the range between 14,000 kilograms and 14,500 kilograms, compared to a range of 13,860 to 14,000 in the current edition of the race.
The combination of these two adjustments is an attempt to create a common righting moment for the whole fleet which will yield closer racing between the existing and future fleets of Volvo Open 70s and stop the expensive research and long slow builds that result in maximized bulb weights. Teams with less time and funding have been compromised with the stability of their boats and hence competitiveness.
Headfoils will be banned, headsails will either be set on furlers or with hanks. Stacking of the boats, the movement of sails and loose stores, spares and equipment inside the boat, will be limited to the centre section of the hull.
On the energy side the overall weight of each yacht's batteries will be reduced by 100kgs. This reduction will allow design and build teams to put the same 100 kgs into the primary and secondary structure of the hull without increasing the weight of the boat. Currently very few of the fleet carry any solar panels so each Volvo Open 70 will also be required to carry a renewable energy source capable of generating 80 Watts of electrical power.
Further discussion centred around two-boat testing. The organizers are seeking to ensure that a team needn't build two boats to be competitive in the next edition of the race. With that in mind, no two-boat testing will be permitted until after the 'race' boat has been launched, or after a yet to be defined date, which may be as late as the race start. There will be more information on this at a later date.
The next 'round table' session is scheduled for 22 June in Stockholm.
Volvo Ocean Race - www.volvooceanrace.org