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Innovation takes back seat with one-design boats only

Business of sport: Sailing Arabia - The Tour 2013 will involve racing between some of the world's most exciting yachts in the Arabian Gulf.

Sailing Arabia - The Tour 2013 will involve racing between some of the world's most exciting yachts in the Arabian Gulf.

These vessels are all produced under strictly controlled regulations. Yachting is no free-for-all and innovation is allowed only in certain races.

All the boats racing for the line in Oman on February 25 will be in the Farr 30 class. All these yachts are produced to the same design.

"The Farr 30 Class have strict class rules which keep the boats as similar as possible. These are what some people refer to as 'one-design' boats where the boats are all identical as possible like racing a standard production car," says Simon Forbes, the technical and offshore manager at the International Sailing Federation.

Individual yacht innovation has been allowed in events such as the Volvo Ocean round-the-world race, which covers 37,000 nautical miles. The half a dozen boats in the 2011-12 edition, which passed through Abu Dhabi, were all produced to different blueprints.

Skippered by Franck Cammas, the French boat Groupama won despite less being spent on its design than other competing boats.

However, for the next Volvo event, which starts next year and will reach its climax in the Swedish port of Gothenberg in 2015, and also the following edition, the design rules have changed. "The next race will be in a one-design, where the teams all have to buy their boat from one supplier," says Mr Forbes.

The Volvo 65 boat will be designed by Farr Yacht Design of the United States and built by a consortium of manufacturers led by the British company Green Marine. The other project members are the Swiss group Decision, Persico of Italy and Multiplast from France. The first boat will be finished in June and be ready to sail within three to four days. Other boats will follow at seven-week intervals.

"The stem shape has been styled to be emotional, forward-looking and be relevant for years to come so it's a boat that's exciting and modern and it's going to be iconic," says Patrick Shaughnessy, the Farr Yacht Design president.

"People are going to see a layout of boat that makes it easier to move sails around because of some of the grinder [rigging] pedestal orientations, those sort of things. But the overwhelming impression will be of a top level Grand Prix racing boat."

The Volvo race may have abandoned innovation for now, but other races are more like Formula One, in which teams design and build their own boats, such as the TP52 Races.

Design innovations on these vessels can include areas such as the hull and foil shape, deck layout and rigging. But there are still strict controls on length, displacement, draft and sail area, which can all increase speed.

The wingsail catamarans for this year's America's Cup should be faster than ever because of foils that lift the hulls out of the water. This can also potentially be dangerous.

Under the AC72 rule governing this race, designers of the eight boats, including Emirates-sponsored Team New Zealand, have just 30-days to test the vessels before setting sail.

Steve Menary is a regular contributor to World Soccer, When Saturday Comes, Four Four Two and Backpass. He also wrote Outcasts! The Lands That Fifa Forgot, which was shortlisted for the Football Book of the Year in 2008

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