Published: Wednesday, 16 November 2016

The Volvo Ocean Race will work more closely with the marine industry’s biggest innovators after agreeing Official Supplier status with a host of major companies for the 2017-18 edition.

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(Photos: Volvo Ocean Race)

Industry leaders Spinlock, Riwal and Gottifredi Maffioli will join existing Boatyard suppliers Volvo Penta, North Sails, Mastervolt, Southern Spars NZ, Harken and B&G as Volvo Ocean Race Official Suppliers in order to develop and create bespoke products and solutions for sailing’s toughest offshore challenge.

Right now, the agreements include work on the €1 million-per-boat refit process underway in The Boatyard’s state-of-the-art facility in Lisbon, Portugal. In the long term, the hope is the collaboration will lead to innovations that trickle down into the consumer sector.

Volvo Ocean Race Boats and Maintenance Director Nick Bice says the partnerships would result in the Race working closer before with the marine industry’s global leaders.

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“The Volvo Ocean Race is the ultimate real-world test bench,” Bice says. “We’re proud to be working with the Who’s Who of the sailing industry – the people and companies at the forefront of innovation, creativity and quality. The Boatyard has already brought a lot to the Race in terms of evolution, and getting these partners onboard will help not only the event, but the wider sailing industry, to evolve even further and faster in the future.”

The Official Supplier deals, negotiated for the whole fleet, have also increased the quality and value of services provided for teams – for the same or less cost – further enhancing the value equation for sponsors backing the race teams.

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Spinlock, based in the UK, is an award-winning lifejacket manufacturer; Europe’s Riwal specialises in aerial work platforms and lifts; North Sails is the global leader in sailmaking; Mastervolt is the industry specialist in autonomous power solutions; Italian company Gottifredi Maffioli, founded almost a century ago, manufactures a wide range of ropes.

Southern Spars designs and manufactures bespoke carbon masts and booms; Volvo Penta is a world-leading supplier of engines and complete power systems for marine and industrial applications; Harken is a global powerhouse in sailboat hardware and accessories; B&G is the industry leader in marine instruments, autopilot systems and tactical software solutions.

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“By working closely with our panel of official suppliers, we are able to develop and create high-quality, bespoke products specific to our race. These evolutions will be apparent in the 2017-18 edition, and many will cross over into the consumer market,” continues Bice.

On Wednesday Nov 16, Bice will speak at the Marine Equipment Trade Show in Amsterdam, where he will visit the innovationLAB to explain the secrets behind The Boatyard and provide more details about key evolutions.

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“The Volvo Ocean 65 fleet survived the last 70,000 or so nautical miles, including training, with just a few hitches, and with these new partners onboard, we’re even more confident that they’ll be in great shape over another 70,000 nautical miles,” he says. “Make no mistake, these boats will be like new when they line up on the start line in Alicante. With a stringent re-fit process currently underway, based largely around reliability, but also to upgrade technology, no stone remains unturned. We’re very excited about the innovations and evolutions on board.”

Bice is a former Volvo Ocean Race sailor, having raced onboard ABN AMRO TWO in 2005-06 and Delta Lloyd in 2008-09. He was also a boatbuilder for Amer Sports in 2001-02 and Shore Manager for Team Sanya in 2011-12 before taking on The Boatyard project for 2014-15. Under the Australian, The Boatyard has established a unique collaboration model in the sport.

Bice estimates that teams had their shore costs cut in half thanks to The Boatyard, which offered fully staffed maintenance cover throughout the nine months of the event plus a supply of all spare parts including rigs.

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The next edition will give official suppliers a golden opportunity to not only showcase existing products, but also add to their product lines.

“This is the first step towards a Technology Partnership Scheme, which will hopefully see even more suppliers working closely with us to innovate and create race-specific technologies and products,” Bice says.

The 2017-18 Volvo Ocean Race will see the fleet tackle 45,000 nautical miles, racing up to three times more miles in the Southern Ocean than in recent editions. Departing Alicante on Oct 22, 2017, the teams will visit a total of 11 major cities, with the big finish in The Hague in summer 2018.