Thursday, October 02, 2008

Schickler-Tagliapietra give their insight into the VOR70 fleet

Valencia Sailing asked Davide Tagliapietra and Doug Schickler of Schickler-Tagliapietra to give their insight into the fleet of VO70's gathered in Alicante.

Valencia Sailing: What are your impressions of the boats and the rule development?

Schickler-Tagliapietra: Everybody knows the rule has become a much tighter design space. The boats are limited in displacement range, and keel weight is controlled independently. In the small range, the boats will probably all try to be at the light end, of course with the heaviest bulb possible. Using higher modulus fibre in the masts, and the very impressive carbon rigging will make a nice step forward in performance. Safety and reliability concerns have driven other new rules, especially in the keel area. Not all of the changes are founded on sound engineering, but the stakes are high for Volvo and the resulting boats are undeniably awesome.

Valencia Sailing: There have been a lot of interpretations to this more refined rule, comments?

Schickler-Tagliapietra: This keel weight rule has unfortunately led to a near "attack" on the interpretation process concerning the keel of one team. Even more unfortunate, VOR found itself in a position where it felt the best way forward was to amend the NOR so a boat without a valid certificate could start the race. They have tried to disarm the situation, but the precedent is troubling.

Valencia Sailing: Any other interpretations of interest?

Schickler-Tagliapietra: One about the use of a rotary keel actuator instead of rams. It's use was denied, but it stirs the imagination. There is an interpretation concerning the use of spray rails for lift, thus declaring it an appendage. The spray rails will trickle down to other long distance race yachts - a good development from IMOCA's and these boats.

Valencia Sailing: Can you give us a summary of the boats and teams, from a designer's point of view? (interview continues after the Ericsson photo)

Delta Lloyd
This late-comer is the only converted VO70 from the last edition of the race. It is however the defending champion, the scratch boat for all the design teams. For her time, the boat has a lot of volume in the bow, with rounded U shaped stations. But this is relative to the last generation. The hard chine has become so ubiquitous since this boat was drawn, it seems almost understated on the ex-Black Betty. The Juan Kouyoumdjian design will have a different mast from the last race – it was broken in a Sydney Hobart – and be outfitted with continuous carbon rigging from Southern Spars. To comply with the version 2 of the rules and to handle the new sailplan the boat is fitted with replacement keel cylinders, and a new bow sprit. Other modifications, such as new inboard daggerboard positions, were made by Team Ericsson, from which skipper Ger O'Rourke will surely benefit. They have turned to North Sails NZ loft and designer Gautier Sargent to fast track racing sails. But, as the boat lacks the power in beam common to all the new boats, this will be the longest of the long shots. Look for the crew to steal some points in the in port races especially.

The Delta Lloyd boat (former ABN-AMRO 1). Photo copyright Rick Tomlinson/Volvo Ocean Race

Team Russia
Subtle is not the word that comes to mind when we saw this boat get launched in the UK. Built by Green Marine, she is a dramatic effort from Humphrys Yacht Design. Once you look past the double spray rails deep down on the forward portion of the boat, you can also tick off a list of design features, each pointing in one direction – power. The bow is outright blunt and the forward sections very full. The boat is max beam with conviction, the chine deep and hard, and sides completely vertical. The gear on board is quite different than the other boats, Lewmar winches and grinders and Future Fibres PBO rigging supporting a Hall Spars mast detailed in a recent Seahorse. However, like favorite Telefonica, the keel system is specified by Central Coast Hydraulics in Australia. Skipper Andreas Hanekamp and Navigator Wouter Verbraak will be using North Sails from the UK loft – Jeremy Elliott is on board trimming the sails he designed. Team Russia has a really broad spectrum of international sailors on board, and we expect the boat to take a leg later in the race. Reliability may hold them from full potential and the boat's design will not shine for the in port races.

The Team Russia boat. Photo copyright Mike Austen / Team Russia

Green Dragon Team
Reichel Pugh Yacht Design step into the Volvo Ocean 70 fray with an outwardly straightforward design, built by McConaghy in China. The yacht steps away from their numerous maxi's and super maxi's, following the VO70 trend, instead, toward full beam, fuller bow sections, hard chine, and slab sides. We would assume that this boat was drawn without a complete set of CFD and tank tests, due to time. The boat's shape impresses, a middle ground between power and low drag. They cannot be far off of the scratch boats with a Southern Spars mast, North Sails, carbon C6 rigging, and Harken Deck Hardware. A small detail; it seems they have saved on hydraulic sail controls, using cascades, a direction also chosen by Puma. The daggerboards have a high outward angle relative to the race favorites, looking more like the last generation. The rudders are the largest; look for this to be developed farther down the track. The crew seems well selected, with Ian Walker being backed up by Ian Moore, victorious in 60's aboard Illbruck, Damian Foxall, Justin Slattery, and veteran Neal McDonald. This team has a lot going for it, but the funding came late and while they will be ready, they will not be in pole position. Could be that the boat is the perfect balance between high power and low drag, in which case we would expect a consistent race performance, better in the tactical near shore parts.

The Green Dragon boat. Photo copyright Rick Tomlinson/Volvo Ocean Race

This was the second team announced and must be the best funded single boat program. The hugely talented skipper Ken Read turned to Botin / Carkeek for the design of their il Mostro. Eric Goetz executed the design, which Shaun Carkeek reports stretched their design tools and methodology, so successful with light air buoy racers, to the point of adaptation. Starting at the stern, the boat is full beam on deck but the flare of the topsides is considerable. The rudders are well outboard, very angled, and all the way aft, in comparison to other boats. Yet they do not seem small and do not come clear of the water so easily when the boat heels. The daggerboards seem to have more chord length than most and are just at the mast position, far outboard, though not swept back. This is clearly a boat balanced differently, and we expect to see some shifting of gears with rake variation. The aft to mid body reveals some interesting effort to keep the bow up at speed. The bow is perhaps the finest of the fleet, though it does not have hollow waterlines. A close inspection reveals the boat has low rocker, in a class with precious little rocker, meaning the boat must carry its volume in full mid sections. In total, this boat seems to explore the low drag concept more than maximum power. il Mostro is equipped also with Southern Spars mast, C6 rigging, and Harken winches, really the standard setup. The chainplates are farther inboard than most, meaning tighter sheeting angles, but higher rig weight. Given the skipper, North Sails considerable technological know how must have gone into sail development. The crew is top drawer, with Andrew Cape navigating. This boat will be strong in the in shore racing especially with less wind and waves, but critically in a corner when power matters most.

The aft of Puma's boat. Photo copyright Alexander Clegg

Equipo Telefonica
This two-boat program settled on a single design built twice, that of Farr Yacht Design, due to funding and build slot uncertainties. What Farr has delivered, built at Southern Ocean Marine and King Marine, is quite impressive. The boats are identical, for all intents and purposes. Labeled blue and black, they have fine, perhaps just hollow, bow shapes with exceptional single spray rails incorporated. This seems to be their approach to handling the most notable design problem, the bow diving under. Beam waterline is not the highest in the fleet, meaning that the boat is reaching somewhat into the reduced drag design space. But it is also a far cry from the single rudder Farr boats last time around. Max beam of course, with very little flare to the after topsides, the quarters of the boat carry a lot of form stability. The boats sport perhaps the smallest rudders of the fleet, also right aft, and very interesting daggerboard planforms, tapering at the tip by changing leading and trailing edges. This points to the guillotine, a closure on the daggerboard trunk. Where this boat really turns heads is the deck loft. The cockpit is huge and open, designed to allow the stack to be moved across the boat without lifting it onto a side deck. The house is vestigial, and pointed at the front is a vain attempt to do what, make the boat dryer? The team used Central Coast Hydraulics for the canting rams, and they do utilize a hydraulic vang on the Hall supplied spars. The masts are the only ones in the fleet forsaking the jumpers for lower aerodynamic drag. The booms look like a shape from another era, but we must assume there is a philosophy to it, probably Nomex core. Like everyone, they turned to North Sails for the 3DL's, and have had a decent amount of time to tune up in Alicante. We expect these boats, especially Blue skippered by Bouwe Bekking with Simon SiFi Fisher navigating, to be looking to start with a home town win, and remain throughout the race in a podium position.

The Telefonica Blue boat. Photo copyright Pierre Orphanidis / Valencia Sailing

This is the only two boat program to develop their boats sequentially, a recipe that led to victory for ABN AMRO last time. The started from that point using Black Betty as a test bed for Ericsson 3, which was the scratch boat for Ericsson 4 to beat. Juan Kouyoumdjian turned to many of the same parties, Southern Spars, Cariboni hydraulics, Killian Bushe boatbuilding, this time around. E3 was a clear development from ABN1, though max beam and somewhat more angular in the sections. The boat has some flare on the topsides at the stern, which is the easiest way to tell it apart from the E4. On a test sail of E3, the bow diving down was taking 3 to 4 knots off the boat speed. Certainly with a race crew and focused driver, this can be minimized, but E4 went to further extremes. The bow is the perhaps the fullest in the fleet, with two distinct changes in curvature in the sections. This appears to be the method to avoid bow diving short of creating spray rails. The fullness of the bow does not carry through to the aft end, instead the after sections of E4 are straighter with a higher chine and vertical sides. The deck layout and placement of mast and angle of daggerboards, among other details, seem to change very little between the boats. Comments made by Killian Bushe during the construction of E4 lead one to think the E3 has a very similar construction to ABN1, while something else has been developed for E4. He went so far as to be “excited” by the challenge of building the second boat. Overall, this program can really only be challenged by Telefonica, and relative to that team they have chosen a path towards more power, even if it comes with more drag. Team Ericsson has recruited a crew with great depth on both boats, but especially the A boat E4, led by Torben Grael and Jules Salter. To what extent the long-winded distraction of measurement shortcomings aboard E3 will effect the team (a hollow keel blade that requires dispensation from the VOR through amendment 9 of the NOR) remains to be seen. Certainly Ericsson has run the ultimate professional campaign, checking off every box, pushing every button. From a design standpoint, E4 is likely the top boat trans-ocean racer, as expected.

Ericsson's two boats. Photo copyright Pierre Orphanidis / Valencia Sailing

Valencia Sailing: What are your thoughts on the number of boats competing?

Schickler-Tagliapietra: Disappointing. 8 boats and just at the last minute. Too bad Judel Vrolijk is not represented with Mean Machine. A French team would be refreshing.

Valencia Sailing: Last but certainly not least, what are your picks for the 2008-2009 Volvo Ocean Race?

Davide Tagliapietra: My pick is one of the Farr boats. They have many interesting features without being extreme boats. I would tip the 24 hour record instead to the most powerful design: Team Russia

Doug Schickler: Ericsson may be the favorite, and it is hard to bet against Grael. But Telefonica Blue is my pick too. I expect Green Dragon to improve the most during the race.

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