For its next two editions, the Volvo Ocean Race aims to maximise the time-honoured arts of austerity and sailing.
Still evolving, at 39 years old, the round-the-world race will feature boats of standard, 19.8-metre designs, the chief executive Knut Frostad announced yesterday at the stopover in Lorient, France.
The announcement followed months of discussion and speculation in the boat-building tents at race stopovers.
The thinking goes that the standardising will trim design costs and encourage wider participation, while also relocating emphasis from the design race toward the sailing race and curtailing an era in which one or several boats have emerged as simply faster than others.
At a news conference, Frostad, himself a former Volvo skipper, called it "another major milestone for a race that has never been afraid to move forward in our 39-year history". He stressed the cost aspect, with campaigns through the years sometimes totalling €20 million (Dh91.3m) or more.
"Our clear goal throughout the planning process for the next race has been to make it easier and less costly to mount a campaign in the Volvo Ocean Race," he said.
For the 2014/15 and 2017/18 races, the boats will cost about €4.5m, according to the race website. The end products will be 1.5 metres shorter than the length used in the current race, which on Sunday will begin the final - and shortest - of its nine legs, from Lorient to Galway, Ireland.
Concerns rose after the thinning of the fleet this time around, during which only six boats have competed, with only five starting off with genuine podium hopes.
That followed eight entries in 2008/09, seven in 2005/06 and eight in 2001/02. The leg from New Zealand to Brazil featured only one boat which did not halt for repairs. The fragile global economy has not helped.
The project of designing eight boats will go to Farr Yacht Design of the United States, which should complete the design by June 2013 before handing off to four European boat builders.
Farr ruled the race during the 1990s before yielding to the Juan Kouyoumdjian designs that won the past two races and hold down the top three spots after eight legs in this race.
Farr also designed Azzam, the first Middle East entry and the first try for Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, which occupies fifth place with one leg win (Leg 7 across the Atlantic) and three in-port wins.
"It's a big challenge," Patrick Shaughnessy, the Farr president, said in Lorient.
"But, I think we're well-suited to meet it."
Farr's task marks a new wrinkle in a long streamlining history for the race.
In the early editions, until 1990, boats had many different sizes and even different racing classes, with some finishing behind others by gaping distances such as 10 days for a leg and 52 days overall.
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