The Volvo Ocean Race, described by some as the ‘Everest of Sailing’, is undeniably the world’s premier global race, and one of the most demanding team sporting events in the world.
Eight competing teams will sail across 37,000 nautical miles of the globe, crossing the start line in Alicante, Spain on 11 October - the teams will visit 11 ports around the world.
During the race crews will experience life at the extreme - taking on wind speeds of 0 to 70 knots over the five oceans, enduring temperatures which will vary between -5 and +40 degrees Celsius, they will also experience hunger and sleep deprivation, entrusting their lives to the boat and skipper.
Five of the eight teams will use Southern Spars custom designed rigs. While all five mast packages were built to each teams’ exact requirements, there have been some generic modifications to the rigs as a result of changes to the VO70 rule and course change. So how does the new generation Volvo Open 70 differ from its predecessor in terms of rig design?
The first major change has seen rigs being built with high modulus carbon fibre. By using a higher fibre grade and having the rig’s weight and CG limits identical to the last race, stiffer rigs could be designed to cope with the higher top mast loads associated with the masthead upwind genoas.
Rules defining sail allowances have also seen the introduction of the Masthead Code Zero. This posed some interesting problems during the design stage as the rigs need to be stable enough to support masthead sails, whilst the geometry also needs to be effective in sheeting the overlapping fractional genoas around the stay envelope. Extensive analysis utilising proprietary software such as North Sails’ MemBrain and Southern’s RigCalc were performed in order to optimise rig geometry and provide the best solution for the two changes.
Internal locks are another feature on the Southern rigs, as these locks have proven very reliable in managing high loads. A new boom tool was also built for the VO70s, producing a more streamlined boom that is 15-20% lighter than previous booms, yet still retaining optimal strength.
With more upwind sailing expected, design effort also went into reducing windage in order to minimise load drag. A major outcome of this has been the use of EC6+ continuous carbon standing rigging.
For the first time, EC6+ rigging will be used in the race. 7 out of the 8 teams will make use of this technology, having each undertaken independent studies that have proven the rigging to be more durable, environmentally inert, aerodynamic, and ultimately, proving to have significantly less drag than that of PBO. The Southern Spars supplied teams:
DELTA LLOYD (ex ABN AMRO ONE) NED
GREEN DRAGON CHI/IRE
ERICSSON RACING TEAM International Crew SWE
ERICSSON RACING TEAM Nordic crew SWE
PUMA OCEAN RACING USA
Southern Spars has also supplied EC6+ rigging to:
TELEFONICA BLUE ESP