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2014’s Volvo Ocean Race Begins in Annapolis

Farr Yacht Design’s Patrick Shaughnessy on creating the boats that sail round the world

Sailing legend Bruce Farr’s career began long ago and far away in his hometown of Auckland, New Zealand. By the 1970s, Farr — then in his 20s — had established a reputation for designing fast, cheap boats that were easier to build and sail than most of the competition. His designs won one-quarter, one-half, three-quarter and one-ton world championships.
    Seeking a presence in the northern hemisphere more accessible to the market, Farr opened an office in Annapolis in 1981. Today, Annapolis is Farr Yacht Design’s home base.
    In this Bay Weekly conversation, Patrick Shaughnessy, president of Farr Yacht Design, talks about the company’s worldwide reach.
Farr Yacht Design’s involvement in the Volvo Ocean Race goes way back.
    For the 1981-’82 Whitbread Round the World Race, Bruce Farr was commissioned to design No. 81 Disque D’Or 3 for Pierre Fehlmann and design No. 90 Ceramco New Zealand for Peter Blake.

You’ve got depth as well as longevity.
    Farr Yacht Design has designed 40 boats across nine races of the Whitbread Round the World Race, now the Volvo Ocean Race, including 19 podium finishers and six overall race winners.

What was your role in Volvo Ocean Race 2011-2012?
    Farr Yacht Design provided research, design and support services to Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing and support services to Team Sanya.

For the next race everything is changing, with one design for all teams. Why?
    Volvo Ocean Race is pursuing a one-design path to reduce the technical cost associated with designing, building and campaigning a competitive boat. The racing hardware only represents about a third of the total technical race budget. But significant gains can be made in shared spares and support services under the one-design umbrella. Ultimately, the goal is to field more teams for the race because the cost of competing is lower and the disadvantages associated with starting later are reduced.

Farr has already created a prototype one-design. What are its key elements?
    Conceptually, the boat is very similar to the VO70. The size has been reduced to 64 feet LOA along with other size-related parameters to reduce cost. In many detailed areas, the boat is conceptually driven to improve safety and reliability and to reduce the competitive disadvantages of less experienced teams.

How did this plum come to you?
    Farr Yacht Design is uniquely positioned in the industry as a research, design and support group with Volvo Ocean Race experience as well as successful one-design creation, class management and support.
    We have always endeavored to be a supportive and cooperative partner of the race. Over our last two Volvo campaigns, we have had personnel fully integrated into our teams on the ground full-time at every stopover. That integration has given us an in-depth view of the race, its history and its future needs.
    To meet the determined goals, we needed to draw on all our experience in the Volvo Ocean Race and in International Monohull Open Class Competition IMOCA Open 60s, integrating this knowledge with lessons from our various one-design development experiences and extensive experience with production building techniques.

What does it take to mount such a groundbreaking design effort?
    Our full research, design and support staff in Annapolis is involved in the New Volvo Class project, along with several consultants to handle the peak loading associated with the project.
    Computational Fluid Dynamics work is carried out on our in-house super computer cluster, while some of the other research components, such as Finite Element Analysis, happen externally.
    Separately, the design work is subject to several layers of third-party review, making this one of the more scrutinized design projects in the
history of yacht racing.

How does sail design fit in?
    Sail design is an important part of the boat’s conceptual development as we determine its inventory and performance criteria alongside important balance determinations for each of the sail combinations. Other important inputs from the sail designers include weight calculation and loading input for the deck and rig of the boat.

Do the racing syndicates have a role in the design-and-build work?
    During the 2011-2012 race cycle, several team-based groups were formed: a speed group, a build group and a logistics group. In that way, input from the experienced team members was collected and input into the design process and also the future of the race.

What is the time frame for launching the new boat?
    Boat 1 will launch in the summer of 2013.

What’s Farr’s role building the boats?
    We’ll play a key role in establishing the one-design controls for the class. The class will be a builder-certified one-design, meaning that all of the controls will be present during the build-and-assembly process. After the boats are launched, no modifications are permitted.

Who is building the boats and where?
    The hull and several of the early internal structure components will be built at Persico S.p.A. in Italy. The decks will be built at Multiplast in France. The internal structure will be built at Decision S.A. in Switzerland. Green Marine Ltd., based in the U.K., will complete the assembly of the boats and act as the point of sale.

What’s next for Farr Yacht Design?
    Next, we have a lot of work to do to ensure that the remaining part of the design is completed according to schedule and the class achieves its goal of becoming the world’s best one-design class.

See Farr Yacht Design — though not the VO64 — at the U.S. Sailboat Show this weekend in Annapolis. Find the Farr 400 on D dock, opposite the Spa Creek Bridge.