The Volvo Open 70 yacht (or Volvo Ocean 70/VOR70), the fastest monohull ever built, made its debut in the fleet of the round-the-world Volvo Ocean Race in 2005-2006, replacing the Volvo Ocean 60 yachts used since 1993.
Considered one of the fastest monohull yachts ever, it was also used in the 2008-2009 Volvo Ocean Race, in which one of the boats was the Green Dragon, captained at the time by the English skipper Ian Walker, an Olympic sailor with two silver medals. Walker went on to win the 2014-2015 Volvo Ocean Race, captaining the team on board the Azzam/Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing yacht, at the age of 44, even setting the event’s 24-hour distance record of 550.82 miles while approaching Cape Horn.
Version 2 of the VOR70 had been presented in 2006 and each new version improved its performance. In 2008-2009 the Swedish yacht Ericsson 4, captained by the Brazilian Olympic champion Torben Grael, established a 24-hour distance record for a monohull – 596.6 miles, recording an average speed of 24.8 knots. This record was only broken seven years later by the American maxi yacht Comanche (10 metres longer), which sailed 618.01 miles in July 2015 during the Transatlantic Race. The design of the VOR70 is based on a box rule concept (similar to the rules applied to racing cars, which define specific measurements, enabling designers to configure other characteristics as they wish). The yacht has a canting keel that can pivot up to an angle of 40 degrees and from the edition of 2005-2006 the boats could be made from carbon fibres, previously not allowed in the ocean race.
In 2011, in the classic Fastnet Race off the south-west coast of England, three VOR70 yachts (Groupama 4, Team Sanya and Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing) were the first to complete the route and all three broke the race record. Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, with the English skipper Ian Walker, is the current record holder – 1 day, 18 hours and 35 minutes. Walker is one of the most famous English sailors, with two Olympic silver medals (in 470 and Star classes) from Atlanta 1996 and Sydney 2000, where he sailed with a new partner Mark Covell, after having lost his previous Olympic partner John Merriks in a road accident in Italy, in 1997.
Another highlight of his sailing career was coaching the English Olympic sailor Shirley Robertson, who won gold in the Yngling class at the Athens Olympics in 2004. In addition, Walker was the skipper of the British bid for the American’s Cup in 2000 (after the country’s 14-year absence from the event), and in 2007 he joined fellow Olympic medallist Iain Percy as a tactician for the Italian +39 Challenge team. He has also had a highly successful TP52 campaign as skipper of the yacht Patches, owned by Eamon Conneely.
The Green Dragon (now Mirpuri Foundation) took part in the 2008-2009 Volvo Ocean Race under the ownership of a group of Irish businessmen, with sponsorship from Chinese companies joining the project at the last minute. The two-time Olympic medallist Ian Walker was its skipper and the team completed the race in 5th in a fleet of seven boats. Various problems – such as a broken boom and a collision with an unidentified object that damaged the boat’s canting keel – undermined the boat’s performance. At the time, the crew-member Justin Slattery wrote that these mishaps resulted in a significant loss of speed for the yacht of approximately 4 to 5 knots compared to the new generation boats in the fleet.
But the team never gave up and completed the race around the world with personality, determination, persistence and mutual assistance – fundamental values for the Mirpuri Foundation –, concluding a sailing project that in fact heralded Ian Walker’s further participation in 2011-2012, as skipper of the Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing project, and later victory in 2014-2015, on board the yacht Azzam, from the United Arab Emirates.
Specifications: Length – 21.5 metres (70.5 feet) Beam – 5.7 metres Draft/canting keel – 4.5 metres Mast – 31.5 metres Displacement – 14 tonnes Ballast – 7.4 tonnes Mainsail area – 175 square metres Headsail area – 94 square metres Spinnaker areas – 350 to 500 square metres Upwind sail area – 269 square metres Downwind sail area – 525 to 675 square metres
Official sponsors of the transatlantic crossing:
Mirpuri Foundation – main sponsor
Photos by Jorge Leal
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Expeditions — 3 Dezembro 2017
Through the eyes of the Leopard
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