VOR 2017-18

JeronimoII

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Scuttlebutt has published an interview with KF about the next edition of the VOR. There is a press conference scheduled this Saturday May 16th in Newport to go into more details.

Take aways / comments from the article

- stopovers confirmed: Alicante, Cape Town, Auckland, Lisbon, Cardiff and Gothenburg.

- stopovers TBA: North & South America, China, and potentially Middle East. A bit of a surprise that VOR is considering not to stop in the Middle East. Abu Dhabi must not be willing to keep spending big bucks despite their likely win and nice stopover. Oman was the other option rumored, especially if OmanSail has a team next time around.

- target team numbers: 7-10. A pity KF thinks more teams would not receive enough (media/fan) attention. For a B2B platform like the VOR, not really the right argument. My take is since VOR is not willing to underwrite the construction of the new boats, KF is just being both cautious and realistic. 10 boats would be a 40% increase from this time around. A great success if achieved.

- current teams: no current team is fully committed to 2017-18. Alvimedica was rumored to be repeating. The Dutch as well. SCA wanted, too, but maybe its new management has different plans.

- boat: some refitting to be done in the autumn.

- activation during dull years. No comment in the article. Surely something shall be mentioned on the 16th.

http://www.sailingscuttlebutt.com/2015/05/13/volvo-ocean-race-already-planning-for-the-next-edition/

 

oioi

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i disagree with his sentiments about number of teams. I think if there are over 10 teams, the fleet will open out and some teams will take a riskier routing strategy. It becomes harder for the leader to cover the fleet and you will see more anomalous results over the course of the race, whilst still allowing the best teams to get consistently to the front.

interesting that there are 300,000 app users. Not sure if that is a high or low number? What KF seems to be saying about splitting the content onto more than one app / platform to allow more detailed and technical sailing coverage is an interesting development and suggests that they want to make sure they keep sailors (the core fan?) interested.

I personally think the VOR in its current form lends itself to an owner / driver entrant. be great if someone like a Niklas Zennstrom or George David entered a RAN or a Rambler...

 

stief

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Good thread Jero

I like KF's attitude on fairness

What have you been most pleased about in this edition?

On a very personal level, this is the first race in a long time that I wish I had been a competitor. I’m a big fan of fair sports. Sailing is always struggling with fairness. There’s a lot of sailing races around the world where you just have a faster boat, or a bigger boat or a better rating. You may just be the unlucky guy that has a less rich owner, and for me that is not really good sport.

That’s why I like the Olympic sailing, because it’s the fairest competition in our sport. And to me this is the fairest offshore race I’ve seen, as long as I can remember, and I like that. It’s pure racing, it’s pure decision making, it’s pure keeping the crew together down in the boat. There’s no discussion about choosing the wrong designer, or not having enough money in the preparation period.
 
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stief

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Blah. Nothing about the tracker and AIS, which IMHO is much more important than the OBRs for "engaging the race fan." Good to hear he recognized that the initial media strategy "alienated" some (like SA posters). The pics may be great, but because we couldn't post them easily (unless they were tweeted), they didn't get the buzz they deserved on these forums.

Still, there's hope in the "two platform" approach. Will be watching to see if one of those "platforms" will be a paid tracker with an 'always on' data feed. Let the non-sailors ooh and ah over the "what's on my iPod" approach.

What has been learned on engaging the race fans?

The onboard reporter has again had a huge impact. The onboard reporter has a much bigger impact than anything else we do. This is the third time we have done this, and I think this time we made a quantum leaping in quality. The state of pictures and the quality of the content they produce on board has been amazing.

Early in the race we had a strategy that broke some of the rules in how sailing is normally communicated, which worked very well for us with a non-sailing audience, but probably alienated some of the sailing audience who want more technical detail. That’s one of the lessons to apply for the next race in how we need to have two different platforms. We cannot try to speak to everyone through the same channel.
 
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stief

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Oman Sail will be in with a team. Much more logical stopover too.
Hmmm. Although I dislike the media control that a Middle East stopover seems to involve, the routing through the conditions of the Indian ocean and then the Malacca straits are quite interesting and still novel, relative to the routing through the Atlantic or Southern. I'll be glad to hear of a Middle East stopover.

 

stief

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Key info on the OD aspect. I think he's right that this is "unprecedented," and for the better.

Have you been surprised that despite the boat’s being one design, their complexity has led to speed differences within the fleet?

First, one of the biggest challenges that doesn’t get spoken about much is what it took to make these boats identical. What has been accomplished is unprecedented. We did a control measurement in Brazil of the tacking board angles, and they’re all inside one millimeter! You won’t find that on a Laser dinghy. No way. We spent money, time, and resources like no one has done before to make them identical. And because of that, no one talks about boat differences. You know we would be hammered if they found out that the keel was one degree different on a boat, or the mast wasn’t in the right place. We would be absolutely hammered, because it would kill the fleet.

As for the boats themselves, there are so many variables. Their tracking boards, keels, and water tanks, and all the sail combinations and how to use the outriggers. These have all resulted in speed differences. There’s lots of speed differences. In some conditions, the fleet is still struggling to keep up with Dongfeng in how they are able to sail lower downwind angles. No one can figure out, and they have been trying for seven months. Even when they are inside AIS range, and they’re looking at the date [sic; data], they still can’t figure it out. There are other teams that have an edge in other conditions. It’s been much clearer for everyone when you have a one design fleet, because now they know it is not the boat that is better, but rather the crew.
 

Chasm

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Two aspects from a previous interview (IIRC the NZ delay press conference) I did not see in the article. Knut said one of the factors limiting limit fleet size are the stop over venues. Some are not big enough for more boats.

Another reason to limit the amount of new boats is to make most teams use old boats. Everyone with money buying new boats for the perceived performance advantage does not help the race at all.

 

JeronimoII

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"this race has gone from really good racing to really bad racing"... Bouwe dixit. It took longer than I had expected, but the bitching from the ones not in the front has started. Another good piece on scuttlebutt. AIS sucks and the VO65 are bloody slow are the two other main messages. (potentially not the right thread for this, but as it might have consequences for the next edition, why not).

Article:

After competing in seven editions of the Volvo Ocean Race, Brunel skipper Bouwe Bekking (NED) has earned the right to have an opinion. Here he shares it with Scuttlebutt editor Craig Leweck…

The Volvo Ocean Race has gone from really good racing to really bad racing. The one design format is great but all the rules and restrictions now have removed much of the adventure. The course constraints and event enforcements, much of it directed by commercial demands, has changed what used to be a pure test. It is now so complex. From a sailing point of view, it would be nice to just let everything go and have them send us around the world. While the race is now safer, it has lost some of its soul.

From a strategic standpoint, the AIS sucks. You can’t make impactful decisions without someone following you. You can’t drift out of AIS range without someone sliding along with you. It is rare when you can make a navigational decision without someone immediately reacting to it. It might be great for the public watching the race, as it has kept us close, but it is a frustrating environment to be competing within.

As for the boat, we are all equal, but when we first stepped on it we all said the same thing. It’s bloody slow. You can moan and complain about it, but it is what it is. They may have presented the Volvo Ocean 65 as having somewhat similar performance as the 70 footer we used in the three previous races, but the truth is they are quite a bit slower on all points of sail. There’s less sail area, less stability, less length…all the elements that typically contribute to performance.

There have been discussions to improve the boat for the next race, but that’s not what I would do. Maybe you could increase displacement, because the boat needs it, but any change is going to cost money, and it remains hard to find the money. If we all make the same changes, and we all come together again to sail against each other, what have we accomplished other than spent money?

So like I said, it is what it is. If we had stayed with the Volvo Ocean 70, this edition probably would have had only two teams: Abu Dhabi and SCA. The VO65 allowed the rest of to get included, albeit at a much later stage than those two teams. So the decision for one design was extremely good, and the boat has given us all a level platform for the competition.

http://www.sailingscuttlebutt.com/2015/05/14/volvo-ocean-race-not-what-it-used-to-be/

 

southerncross

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^ Couldn't agree more with BB. Probably the most vocal of the high profile so far But I would suspect it is a sentiment shared by many who knew the race as it was.

 

Ricky Craven

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I am only familiar with the VOR from 2005 onwards... it would be great to hear from crew/spectators of the races in the 80s/90s to know if safety and $ have always been the paramount considerations. Does the race need to be as bubble-wrapped and "vanilla" as it is today to be viable? The race has lost its personality. Don't we want the skippers to have to decide how far south they should go, when to transmit an AIS signal, when they should leave port etc. etc.? Don't certain businesses (i.e., owners of private companies with huge egos) want to be associated with a more extreme competition that is not so highly regulated and micro-managed. Does the "casual fan" enjoy watching underpowered boats follow each other around for 3 weeks in 12 kts of breeze?

Bouwe is always a breath of fresh air---speaking (somewhat) freely and not necessarily toeing the company line. Perhaps the opinions of Pascal, Xabi etc. are as colorful, but do not make it into english print.

2017-2018 could be a very dull affair... VO65s will be dinosaurs in 2017. KF should step aside and be replaced by somebody who knows how to get deep pockets to commit to a less risk-averse "life at the extreme".

 

bclovisp

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[...] Does the "casual fan" enjoy watching underpowered boats follow each other around for 3 weeks in 12 kts of breeze? [...]
great phrase to portrait the biggest issue of todays' VOR
On the underpowered boat issue, let me disagree.

The Whitbread was raced on 9-knot-shitboxes, with "comfortable" bunks and no carbon or pendular keels, yet has that undefined je-ne-sais-quoi that you guys are missing.

I'm afraid these days are just gone, and the current VOR makes a lot of sense from many angles (ability to attract sponsors, high level racing, etc).

But yes i somehow miss those days when a boat could be called L'Esprit d'Equipe (team spirit), when trimming was something that happened every half hour, once everybody had enjoyed a good meal, a good nap and a good cigarette, but at the same time the guys were going for an adventure that could last for three or five weeks, nobody knew as there were no routing softwares...

On the other hand, we surely wouldn't get 3-hour tracker updates!!!

C.

 

Ricky Craven

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[...] Does the "casual fan" enjoy watching underpowered boats follow each other around for 3 weeks in 12 kts of breeze? [...]
great phrase to portrait the biggest issue of todays' VOR
On the underpowered boat issue, let me disagree.

The Whitbread was raced on 9-knot-shitboxes, with "comfortable" bunks and no carbon or pendular keels, yet has that undefined je-ne-sais-quoi that you guys are missing.

I'm afraid these days are just gone, and the current VOR makes a lot of sense from many angles (ability to attract sponsors, high level racing, etc).

But yes i somehow miss those days when a boat could be called L'Esprit d'Equipe (team spirit), when trimming was something that happened every half hour, once everybody had enjoyed a good meal, a good nap and a good cigarette, but at the same time the guys were going for an adventure that could last for three or five weeks, nobody knew as there were no routing softwares...

On the other hand, we surely wouldn't get 3-hour tracker updates!!!

C.
Ha! Of course the Whitbread had that "je ne sais quoi". Boat speed and creature comforts have nothing to do with whether the boats are relatively powerful, unruly and a challenge to handle/sail. I bet doing those peels and dip pole gybes in the roaring 40s while dodging growlers was a fucking rush! So what if you were able to hack a dart and take a slug of rum afterwards--well deserved.

I'm not convinced that the current VOR is the best way to attract sponsors for the same reason that it is not the best way to attract fans... as for the high level of racing, yes, it is impressive, but i think the general sentiment is that something needs to be done about AIS to encourage risk taking and independent decision making. Otherwise, we watch "follow the leader" and listen to how "one cloud" makes/breaks a team's entire leg. There is no easy solution, but I think that restoring the "je ne sais quoi" (adventure, VO70-type horsepower, no guts - no glory type decisions from skipper and navigator) should be a paramount consideration for the future.

As for technology and coverage of the race, my interest lies in having a 3 hour tracker, live video at start and finish and the occasional video sent from the boat showing maneuvers and hearing the crew talk about tricky situations that they just sorted out, or, for example, hearing someone speak honestly about "a heinous graveyard shift driving in zero visibility with three sail changes, reef-in, reef-out and a couple of fuck-ups along the way." Honest chatter would be nice. Most importantly, I want top sailing journalists to put thoughtful and sophisticated questions to the teams during and after each leg. There has been a lot of fluff this time around.

 

bucc5062

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"but the truth is they are quite a bit slower on all points of sail."

And yet one of these slow boats broke the 24 speed record. :) I wonder how much of the energy of his comments are a little colored by his current position in this race. His team has had less than stellar performances and it is really hard to blame the boat when teams like DFRT and ADOR are figuring out how to make them go fast.

Just as the past VOR is nothing like the original Whitbread, this current VOR and future events will be different from before the 65. To say it is a dinosaur even before this race ends makes no sense. It is a one design boat just like a Lightning, Thistle, 505 etc. Folks who sail them would not feel they are ancient mariners and if they don't have the same speed as modern foiling boats, there are a lot of sailors who love sailing them.

Overall I have enjoyed this approach to team ocean racing. I like the close fleets and I like the sameness of the boats and sails. As KS pointed out it puts everything on the team's ability to make a boat go fast and some get that better than others. having ten boats would be fantastic, but I don't see how that might change the overall approach to performing in this race.

The one biggest factor in keeping these boats together has not been AIS, it has been the routing software which takes all this data and churns out a best possible route. Every boat has the same software so every boat sees the same thing. Other than the one leg that split the fleet from Sanya to NZ, almost every leg has been plotted and followed even before they leave the dock. BB wants AIS to go away, but if you want the navigator to really take center stage, drop the predictive software and just give them the raw weather data in 6 hour reports. Campbell put out a very detailed review of leg 7 and while not as accurate as his, just stepping through windyty for the week I was able to see a similar route. Predictive software, more than any other technology has been what keeps these fleets together.

I second the Charleston stop over (as it is not that far away). Newport has history with the AC, but Charleston has three things going for it, a great sea port that could handle more boats, a large sailing community just around Charleston, but also in the region, and it is much easier to get to for much of the east coast (driving through NYC an the metro area is just plain hell). I'll add that the costs may be a little easier on the pocket. I'd time it for just before or just after CSW so the two don't clash, but feed each other. Given the state of conflicts in the Middle East, I would worry about having a stop over there. By 2017 it could be a land of peace, but it seems to be trending towards more chaos. An alternate to me would be India, maybe Mumbai for I bet they would throw one heck of a welcome (and might interest more Indian to get into sailing).

 

JeronimoII

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the VO65 did not break the 24hr record. 550nm of VO65 ADOR vs 597nm of VO70 Ericsson 4 in 2008.

But I agree that speed difference is not considerable, and does not change the interest in the race. The drag race is my main issue.

A stopover in India... go and ask Knut if he would like to repeat the one from 2009... it was apparently a chaos to organize. I don't think he wants to go back. Muscat is the likely one next time around (especially if Oman Sail has a team)

 

Ricky Craven

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bucc:

Bouwe is unimpressed with the boats. The VO70 was a different beast. Enough said. Can you think of any sailor in the world who can provide a more credible opinion? VO65 v VO70 has nothing to do with squeezing the most boatspeed out of either, it is the challenge of managing the raw power that is at issue.

Trying to draw some parallel between the VOR and your local 1D fleet of Thistles is absurd.

"Predictive software, more than any other technology has been what keeps these fleets together." You're wrong. Have you done any offshore sailing? Do I recall that you are a lake sailor with limited (no) experience on the ocean? Being able to watch your competition's position, SOG and COG at ALL times is vaaaaaaaaaaaastly different than employing the same routing software. I understand that the Atlantic crossing is often straightforward, and (the links to) Campbell's analysis is one of the things I have been enjoying most in these forums, but it is rarely the case that routes do not disagree/change leading up to and over the course of the leg thereby presenting options--regardless, my point is to eliminate the easy choice to just hang with the group. Force a decision to be made.

 
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bucc5062

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bucc:

Bouwe is unimpressed with the boats. The VO70 was a different beast. Enough said. Can you think of any sailor in the world who can provide a more credible opinion? VO65 v VO70 has nothing to do with squeezing the most boatspeed out of either, it is the challenge of managing the raw power that is at issue.

Trying to draw some parallel between the VOR and your local 1D fleet of Thistles is absurd.

"Predictive software, more than any other technology has been what keeps these fleets together." You're wrong. Have you done any offshore sailing? Do I recall that you are a lake sailor with limited (no) experience on the ocean? Being able to watch your competition's position, SOG and COG at ALL times is vaaaaaaaaaaaastly different than employing the same routing software. I understand that the Atlantic crossing is often straightforward, and (the links to) Campbell's analysis is one of the things I have been enjoying most in these forums, but it is rarely the case that routes do not disagree/change leading up to and over the course of the leg thereby presenting options--regardless, my point is to eliminate the easy choice to just hang with the group. Force a decision to be made.
Sounded like Knut was impressed and I think he has some sailing experience. So BB doesn't like the boat, that does not mean it is a bad boat, it is just his opinion.

Why is drawing a parallel between two one design fleets absurd? Clearly I was not comparing the performance envelopes, but responding to some thought that the VOR65 is already a dinosaur when there are boats that have a decades long history as a one design class and have had long term success. Nothing says that the VOR65 cannot have the same long term success, but it certainly is a paradigm shift in thinking and sailing an ocean race. How about this, it is a sailboat. BB is not required to sail on it if he does not like it. Someone certainly will. By his own words he noted that staying with the 70 would have basically killed the race, so Knut found a compromise that seems to be working, given the tight racing which makes it exciting for spectators and sailors.

While I have no off shore experience, I can see and think and what I see is that when folks like Campbell put up their analysis of a leg, the fleet has followed along. It does not matter that a predictive program may show alternate routes, it will show them as possibilities and teams would want to choose the best possible route. Leg 2, MAPF splits out and look what happens, leg 3, they all take the optimum route, no major deviations, leg 4, BB and SD split, sail a long distance and wind up next to the fleet in the ITCZ, leg 5, they all take the same route even though models showed that going more north and down the SA coast could also work but was longer distance, leg 6 the followed the optimum route with only ALVI splitting out and look what happened to them. Leg 7 is practically a straight shot and none of those lines show any major deviation so where is a flyer going to take a team?

I don't need ocean experience to observe that with this VOR it is a OD race over long distances. The boats are the same, the teams are fairly close in ability so anyone who tries to "take off" will, according to past moments, get spit out the back. Since every boat has the same program, the same general experience level and the same notion to win, I really doubt they are willing or able to split off from the fleet in the macro sense and make it work for if one sees it, so will the others. If you split by hundreds of miles and the chaos of weather decides to change on your path for the worse, you are done. The only thing AIS does is extent the reach of eye balls past the horizon for an extra distance which other skippers/sailors have indicated they like. There is a simple solution for Bekking, don't use it if you hate it so much. Ah, but he won't for as much as he might not like it, it is a useful tool to see when his competition makes a change or tacks away.

The man has sailed 7 VORs and I respect the hell out of that. Yet because he sailed 7 VORs in conditions that do not relate to what the VOR is today, he does not like it and I understand that, even as I would disagree. The best competitor is the one that adapts to change the fastest and this VOR has changed much from the past (for good or bad is left to the individual)

 
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