Volvo Open 70 Build Visit

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by Chris Cochran, Design Engineer

Working at Farr Yacht Design is truly a unique experience and an amazing opportunity to see projects become reality. As a structural engineer and a sailor, working as part of the design team and communicating daily with the boat builders, project managers, sailing teams, and shore support teams you gain a perspective of the endeavor and efforts required to compete in an event like the Volvo Ocean Race.

Farr Yacht Design utilizes a “Team Approach” in our design process; all design team members are involved with every project, contributing in their area of specialty. Hull shape and design, foils and appendage design, structural engineering, deck geometry and layout, performance analysis and rating optimization specialists all working together on every project; it is impressive to be involved in the design meetings and hear everyone contribute. But the most interesting aspect is being on-site with the project and interacting with the sailing team.

April 2007 I (along with fellow Farr structural engineers Pete Levesque and Mark Bishop) had the opportunity to sail on the original Volvo Open 70, Brasil-1. We assisted Team Alicante with delivering the boat from Gosport, UK to the Atlantic coast town of Sanxenxo, Spain, near the start of the 2005-2006 Volvo Ocean Race. During this roughly 800nm trek we had opportunities to see first hand the remarkable speeds, performance and loads associated with the Volvo Open 70. This was particularly timely since, upon our return to the office, we were to redesign components of Brasil-1 to be utilized as a training platform for Team Alicante and continue our R&D work on the 2nd generation Volvo Open 70 design.

As a follow up to our efforts, in February 2008, I traveled to Valencia, Spain to visit with Team Alicante, our exclusive clients for the 2008-2009 Volvo Ocean Race. The main purpose for my trip was to spend some time with the builders, and work with the team to sort out the final design & construction details of our 2nd generation Volvo Open70s, now well under way.

While in Spain I also had the opportunity to visit the team’s training base in Alicante, about 190 km South-Southwest of Valencia. The sailing team had just returned from a week long offshore session, training on the old Brasil 1; they were having a series of debriefs with the various sailmakers & riggers that consist of the shore crew. The base is well set up now, and it always amazes me to see what can be accomplished with a half dozen shipping containers and some large canopies.

The builder for Team Alicante boat #1 is King Marine, located just outside of Valencia. Boat #2 for this team is being built by Southern Ocean Marine in New Zealand. This international team of boat-builders is doing a great job, creating a state-of-the-art speed machine, carefully laminating every ply of carbon. The Volvo Open 70’s have a high-level of detailed design work associated with the canting keel mechanisms, twin lifting dagger-boards, twin rudders, sail-handling systems, etc. We have spent many hours working with the crew and other experts, considering how the boats operate to arrive at good, light-weight and reliable solutions for all the intricate details. However, seeing these boats in person gives you a vastly different perspective as compared to seeing the drawings on a 20” computer screen. When standing inside the hull I couldn’t help realizing how massive and powerful this generation of Volvo Open 70’s is going to be and my thoughts went back to power reaching on Brasil-1 and just how fortunate I was to have experienced this first hand. The builders are now in the final stages of assembling these systems and we look forward to the launch and first sail to see the product of our labors in action.

-Chris Cochran, Design Engineer