Thomas Coville advocates for a multihull Volvo Ocean Race
Earlier this year in New York I interviewed the irrepressible French offshore skipper, Thomas Coville. Ostensibly we had planned to talk about the single-handed transatlantic crossing he had just completed aboard his gigantic foiling trimaran Sodebo during The Transat race
However, when I mentioned to him that the last time we had spoken had been during the 2011-12 Volvo Ocean Race - which he won as part of Franck Cammas’ Groupama sailing team – he began to enthusiastically make his case for switching the VOR to multihulls.
This is what he told me....
I have been talking to Knut Frostad - a good friend of mine - since 2006 about multihulls in the Volvo Ocean Race. Now we have Mark Turner in charge and he knows the situation pretty well so he could make the decision to create something very special.
They want to reduce the budgets and doing that is not all about the price of the boats. If you reduce by nearly half the length of the VOR and have half the crew, you will reduce the costs by half. Only with multihulls is that feasible.
Plus, with multihulls you will make the public much more enthusiastic about the race because the boats will be faster and more exciting.
Then you have to consider the optimum size of the boats. We have been thinking about this question for a long time. Even on solo boats 100 or even 120 feet (approximately 30 metres) I would say is a good size.
Actually, when it comes to power and stability the important question is not the length but the width. If you get the width right compared to the size of the mast it makes for a very safe boat.
Limit the righting moment to 170 or 180 tonnes per meter then I think you are close to the perfect sized boat. That would be similar to the current Sodebo or Francois Gabart’s MACIF.
The calculation is half the width times the weight, so the lighter you are the less righting moment you have got, but the wider you can be. To give you an idea, Sodebo is 170 and MACIF is around 155 - 160.
Even without going to foils you are going to reduce the time on the legs by half and then you can make a huge exhibition at each off the stopovers so that Volvo get what they need to attract the public and to put on a show for their corporate guests.
Also, you could have many more people on board the boats in the stopovers and it would be much more exciting and fun.
It will be better for the fans too. The public will follow when it's not three weeks of waiting on each leg. That's just too long. Only the English can be passionate about a cricket match lasting for more than a week!
With the new multihulls even by yourself the Atlantic is a week and going to Brazil is nine days. Suddenly the public will stay engaged for the whole leg.
I'm sure you would get one or two French teams and then I think guys like Ian Walker and Ken Read could come back – maybe not as skippers but in the back office. I know the Spanish would come back because guys like Iker Martinez would absolutely love it.
I know I would do it in a heartbeat - as a crew or whatever. I don’t think I would do the Volvo Ocean Race again in monohulls, but if it moved to multihulls then I know I would absolutely want to be there.
I’m ready to work with the guys in Alicante to make this happen.
[Image: Ian Roman/Volvo Ocean Race]