Lisbon – A unique refit process is underway in Lisbon, with the first of the fleet of seven one-design Volvo Ocean 65s going in for a complete overhaul ahead of the next edition of the Volvo Ocean Race.
The start of the next race is still over a year away – but at the state-of-the-art Boatyard facility in Lisbon, Portugal’s capital, the boatbuilding team is already working against the clock.
The boats will collectively undergo a stringent re-fit process, based around reliability, to ensure that they can race another 45,000 miles around the planet.
Work on each will take around 15 weeks, but the process will be staggered to allow a new boat to enter the facility every three weeks.
“To say we’re on a challenging schedule is an understatement,” said Sam Bourne, Head of the Boatyard’s Deck Gear Division.
“We have seven boats to upgrade between now and next summer. Every three weeks a boat will come in, and from January 2017, we’ll start to push the boats out and hand over to the teams. There’s not a moment to waste.”
It is the first time in the history of the race that a one-design re-fit process has been undertaken. It will be completed in June 2017 – four months before the start of the next edition in October 2017.
“The boats ended the last race in fantastic condition,” said Nick Bice, Director of Boats and Maintenance at Volvo Ocean Race, as the first boat from the 2014-15 edition began the refit process this week.
The first boat going into the refit process was raced by Dongfeng Race Team in the 2014-15 edition.
“When a boat comes out of this re-fit process it will look brand new, with a new paint job. You won’t be able to tell they’ve ever been in the water, never mind raced and trained over 60,000-70,000 miles through the toughest conditions on earth.”
He added: “We’re making some changes across the boats using our learnings from last edition to ensure that they’re even more reliable than before – and we’re also modifying the sail inventory, combined with several other upgrades all taking safety, reliability and technological advancement into account.”
The Boatyard facility, which opened in Lisbon in May this year, will serve as a pre-race training hub for the fleet, allowing teams to access Atlantic conditions as they prepare for the gruelling next race which will see them race three times more miles in the Southern Ocean than in recent editions.
Bice added: “The building we’re using to house the Boatyard is an old fish market. If you were to design and build a facility to undertake these upgrades to the boats, you wouldn’t be able to design it better than what’s already here in the docks in Lisbon. The training options are almost limitless. You can go up around the corner, around Cascais and be virtually guaranteed wind at any stage. Equally, you could train in the Tagus River to practise in light air scenarios.”
The maintenance centre based at Race HQ in Alicante will continue to be available for teams as a Mediterranean training and support base.