SAN FRANCISCO (#1057) – A press release just issued by VOR media confirms what has widely rumored, and long since reported by Sailing Illustrated, that the next edition of the Volvo Ocean Race, or whatever it ends up being called under its new owners and sponsors (if Volvo does not continue), will race in IMOCA 60 yachts.
Proposals for the race to adopt the IMOCA 60 (formerly Open 60) rule, used in the major solo and short-handed ocean races such as the Vendée Globe and Route du Rhum, have been discussed for several years. Indeed, at the final press conference of the 2017 America's Cup, ETNZ CEO Grant Dalton seemed to float the idea of also using the IMOCA 60 for the 2021 America's Cup, but, as most of our Dear Readers will know, that did not come to pass.
The IMOCA 60 is a "box rule" as opposed to a strict one-design rule like the 65' monohulls used in the past two editions of the VOR. This will re-introduce an element of design competition back into this "crewed round the world yacht race" previously known as the Whitbread (after the British brewery that originally sponsored it) and, most recently, the Volvo Ocean Race. However, the IMOCA 60 rule could be tightened up to make it more one-design for the sake of keeping the racing close in a wide variety of conditions.
Interesting, too, was what the release did not say. In the past "Volvo" was used in virtually every headline, the opening paragraph and wherever else it was possible to mention the title partner. Not today. The release is headlined, "Agreement will see IMOCA 60s in next race" and discusses at some length the meetings held last week in The Hague on how the 60s would be incorporated into the "next race." The opening paragraph makes no mention of Volvo and uses the phrase "crewed round the world yacht races." To wit:
A partnership agreement has been made with the International Monohull Open Class Association (IMOCA), which provides the exclusivity to use the IMOCA 60 for crewed round the world yacht races.
In other words, no other fully-crewed around-the-world races can use the IMOCA 60s other than the one formerly known as the Volvo Ocean Race – cue the late, great artist formerly known as Prince.
The release includes good and supportive quotes from several of the top skippers in the 2017-18 edition just concluded, as well as prominent designers in the yacht racing world.
You had to read through all those quotes to get to the non-answer for the question that is on everyone's mind – what about the current 65s? The last sentence of the release:
The future of the VO65 class of boats, used in the last two editions of the race, will be revealed in the coming weeks.
Regardless, congrats to new Co-President Johan Salen (photo above, from the IMOCA 60 forum held The Hague last week, courtesy of VOR media) and his leadership team as Sailing Illustrated firmly believes this move to IMOCA 60s, whether or not the 65s are also raced in their own class, makes good sense for any number of reasons that we will discuss here and on our live webcast "Tuesdays with TFE" also "in the coming weeks."
“This is a first step of many in preparing for the next edition of the race in 2021,” Mr Salen said. “There is an ongoing co-operation process to put in place the elements we need to make the next race a success from a sporting and business point of view."
Read today's VOR press release in full here.
Coincidentally, yesterday we received this photo of HUGO BOSS, Alex Thompson's (GBR) IMOCA 60, from Richard Levine, a Sailing Illustrator and keen racing sailor from Boston. Richard spotted HUGO BOSS sailing on Boston Harbor in light air over the weekend.