In the biggest shake up in its history, the Volvo Ocean Race has announced a series of radical initiatives, including introducing a new foil-assisted ocean racing monohull and a ‘flying’ catamaran for In-Port Races

The Volvo Ocean Race has unveiled its new vision to create professional sailing’s ultimate all-round test.

Highlights include the choice of a new 60-foot (18.29 metre) foil-assisted One Design ocean racing monohull, designed by France’s Guillaume Verdier, plus the introduction of a challenging 32-50 foot (10-15m) One Design ‘flying’ catamaran for In-Port Races, for which a new design and build tender process was launched today.

“Three hulls, but not what you might have imagined,” said Volvo Ocean Race CEO, Mark Turner, has he revealed the choice of the next generation One Design boats at a live event at the Volvo Museum in Gothenburg this morning.

“We had a lot of debate about multihull versus monohull and, in fact, the final solution for us is to do both, so there will be three hulls in future editions – a foil-assisted monohull and a ‘flying’ catamaran,” he continued.

a render of an offshore racing boat for the Volvo Ocean Race

The new design of the offshore racer. Credit: Volvo Ocean Racer

“The Volvo Ocean Race has always been the ultimate test of a team in professional sport and with these changes – collectively the most radical since the race began in 1973 – we are taking it up another level,” said Turner.

“The obsession that has led to generations of sailors putting everything on the line to win this race will continue, but to lift the trophy will require more skill, dedication and sacrifice than ever.”

Key announcements from the Gothenburg event:

Sailing’s ultimate test: From the edition after 2017-18, the Volvo Ocean Race will be contested in a combination of a 60-foot foil-assisted monohull for the ocean legs and a 32-50 foot ‘flying’ catamaran for use in the In-Port Race Series.

Foil-assisted monohull: The One Design monohull from French naval architect Guillaume Verdier will use the latest generation foiling technology to make it incredibly fast to sail and spectacular to watch.

Crew numbers are likely to be between 5 and 7, with incentives continuing for mixed male-female crews and youth sailors.

The race will build eight of the new monohulls and deliver them from January 2019 onwards.

They will be available to lease by teams to reduce campaign start-up costs, with sponsors involved in the current 2017-18 race to be given first option when Notice of Race and Commercial Participation Agreements are published this October.

IMOCA compatibility: Uniquely, the design brief retains an option to allow the boat platform to be converted, inexpensively and quickly, to a fully rules-compliant short-handed IMOCA boat.

The 60-foot IMOCA class boats, used in iconic races such as the solo Vendée Globe, have been the drivers of some incredible technical innovation over the past few decades.

‘Flying’ in-shore catamaran: Additionally, the race is launching a tender process for a new One Design 32-50 foot ‘flying’ catamaran for use inshore – a boat that will use some of the technology familiar from the America’s Cup and other new multihulls, albeit in a non-development One Design mode.

A man making an announcement on a stage

The announcement was made at the Volvo Museum in Gothenburg. Credit: Ainhoa Sanchez/Volvo Ocean Race

A sustainable future: The race has three pillars of action on sustainability – reduce its own footprint, maximise its impact using its global communications platform, and leave a positive legacy wherever it goes.

Centred on a partnership with the United Nations Environment Clean Seas campaign, the focus will be on the call to action ‘Turn the Tide on Plastic’.

A founding partnership with 11th Hour Racing is providing the resource to permit significant amplification across all Science, Education and Ocean Summit programmes.

AkzoNobel will further boost the education and awareness programme.

The Volvo Ocean Race’s long term ambition is to reduce and then eliminate the use of fossil fuels on future boats, while maintaining safety and communication performance, as well as developing new construction methods and operational strategies for the race overall.

New racecourse and stopover formats: The race is planning big changes to the racecourse and stopover formats over the next decade – moves that aims to strengthen commercial appeal while preserving its sporting integrity.

While the race is committed to two more starts from its home, and important partner, in Alicante, some future races could start and finish outside Europe, and potentially feature a non-stop leg around Antarctica or even a non-stop lap of the planet.

But while routes may vary, the race will commit to visiting North America, South America, Australasia, Greater China, and at least 5 major European markets at least once every two editions.

In addition, Host Cities will be able to choose from a range of flexible stopover formats – from the 24-48 hour pit-stop, to shorter form stopovers of five days, through to traditional ‘two weekend’ stopovers with full activation. The bidding process for the next three editions is launched today.

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Race activity every year/Potential shift to two-year cycle: The Volvo Ocean Race Board has asked race management to look into the feasibility of shifting the race to a two-year cycle.

That process is still ongoing but what is already certain is that in future there will be race activity of some kind in every calendar year – a clear evolution from the current situation, with a gap of over two years between editions

A pathway to the Volvo Ocean Race: The race and its co-owners Volvo Car Group and Volvo Group will become official partners of World Sailing, as part of a long term strategic plan to develop the next generation of offshore sailors and their sponsors by providing a clear developmental pathway.

The race will establish Volvo Ocean Race Academies as part of future Host Venue partnerships and will also provide a stepping stone for future offshore sailors into the Olympics, if and when offshore sailing is included, which could be a showcase event as early at Tokyo 2020.

50th anniversary celebration: The Volvo Ocean Race began life in 1973 as the Whitbread Round the World Race and 2023 marks its half-century.

The race is considering plans for a special 50th anniversary race that will honour the sailing legends who have taken part.

Following the announcement, Ian Walker, who won the 2014/15 edition of the Volvo Ocean Race with Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, tweeted: “Not quite sure what to make of that @volvooceanrace announcement – one thing is clear though – sailing is all now short handed”.

A tweet about the changes to Volvo Ocean Race by Ian Walker

The next edition of the Volvo Ocean Race starts from Alicante on 22 October 2017 and will visit a total of 12 Host Cities on six continents.

The teams will compete over 46,000 nautical miles (83,000 kms) to the finish line in The Hague at the end of June 2018.