Sunday 25 March 2018

Last hurrah for Volvo 70 racers

WM Nixon

It's a cruel world. The Volvo 70 racers arrive in to Galway next week, and it's their last hurrah. A week today, around lunchtime, they will become obsolete after their final race of the current series, an in-port event off the City of the Tribes.

With that little sprint concluded, and the overall winners honoured in gala style, we'll all be expected to hail the concept of the new Volvo 65s, a fleet of one designs which will start hitting the water a year hence, with a new boat being launched every seven weeks until there are eight ready for the Volvo Ocean Race 2014.

The idea is that it will bring costs within manageable limits. Or at least the limits can be more clearly defined. But they'll still be fairly crazy by everyday standards.

For wannabe contenders, it's welcome news. But for those who see the Volvo races as being the cutting edge of boat design development, it has to be a retrograde step, as having a box design (albeit with fairly severely restrained limits) did push the concepts down the road from fantasy to actuality, whereas one design should in theory make everyone equal.

Meanwhile, with questions being asked about just how Galway and Ireland will recoup the costs being incurred for the current jamboree, it arouses mixed feelings to learn that the financial challenge will be manageable in the future.

We have enough financial challenges to deal with right now before we can get worked up about getting more bang for our buck going forward.

But we have to applaud the chutzpah of the international marine industry around the Solent area in the south of England for this turn of events.

The new boats will all be built by Greene Marine of Lymington and Southampton. And we can be fairly sure that many key personnel involved -- afloat or ashore -- will be Solent-based.

Ironically, the Brits themselves don't have a boat in the current race. In fact, they haven't been seriously involved at national entry level for a long time. But their advanced marine industry has done very nicely out of the Volvo Race.

Here in Ireland, however, the supporters will have to do an awful lot of partying simply to keep the Irish Volvo Race show on the road.

With the final results being totted this weekend for the Round Ireland Race, the prediction here that Piet Vroon's Ker 46 Tonnerre de Breskens would be the boat to beat proved spot on, with French skipper Laurent Gouy's Ker 39 Inismor (of Clifden, among other places) also making the pace.

Aspiring offshore racers would do well to study everything about the Tonnerre and Inismor campaigns.

Sailing at this level is a pleasure to watch. But with fog plaguing much of our coastline, very few saw Tonnerre de Breskens and Inismor going so beautifully about their business.

Irish Independent

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