The introduction of the one-design Volvo Ocean 65 will level the playing field and bring down costs of the competitors.
Standard design for all the boats at this year's Volvo Ocean Race
The one-design Volvo Ocean 65 will be the boat used by all teams for the next two editions of the race, a radical break from the previous four decades, when teams were responsible for the design of their boats.
The Ocean 65 has been designed by the American firm Farr Yacht Design, and is about five feet shorter than the boats used by the six teams in the 2011/12 version of the race.
The boats for the 39,895-nautical-mile 2014/15 race will be built by four European firms – Green Marine in the UK, Decision in Switzerland, Persico in Italy and Multiplast in France. The first boat will be handed over to a team next month, according to race organisers. Patrick Shaughnessy, president of Farr Yacht Design, is enthusiastic about his company's creation.
"The overwhelming impression will be of a top-level grand prix racing boat," he told the race website.
"So we tried to be pretty smart in how we address a couple of key little things but at the same time produce an image of a boat that's very forward thinking and has a unique look in its stem profile, its cabin shape and some of these things that will make the boat iconic in the industry. It'll be something that looks special – and look special for a while."
The one-design plan is meant to reduce cost and encourage more than the six boats in the most recent race, as well as address some issues of fragility that cropped up during the 2011/12 competition. The new boat will carry seven sails, instead of 10.
"What separates it a little bit from the Volvo Open 70 is that it is trying to address the cost issue associated with the hardware in the event, so the boat is a little smaller in many of its parameters, which are scaled to try to address cost," Shaughnessy said.
Team SCA will compete with an all-woman crew, the first since 2001/02. All-female teams will be allowed 11 crew members. Teams with male sailors will be limited to a crew of eight.
As well as the design rule change, Volvo Ocean Race organisers have also tweaked rules for the size of team crews, cutting them from 10 in 2011/12 to eight for the 2014/15 race.
The thought behind the change, as with the design element, is an effort to scale down the costs of participation: fewer crew equals less cost. The Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing team's Azzam are due to announce some new crew members on Monday, although the entire process of selection will not be complete until early next year.
"It's a slow process in sense that we build the team up one by one," said Ian Walker, the team skipper. "There will be a couple of team members announced in the coming period, but we won't announce the full team until quarter one next year."
Two of the crew members, according to the new rules, must be under age 30 and Azzam, as they did last time, are likely to have an Emirati member on board.
"The workload will go up because it is still a big boat and we have to sail around the world," Walker said.
And because all teams will have the same boat, the importance of the crew will become even more critical and the process to select them even more deliberate.
"Their roles will be more important and also more rewarding. There will be no hiding places, for sure, as we're not going to be able to say we had this problem or that problem with the boat. We've all got the same, so we need the best team.
"Ultimately the team that trains hardest, makesthe best decisions, is fittest, strongest and has more skill, will do well."
Osman Samiuddin contributed to this article.
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