Volvo Ocean 65

The Boatyard

The boats that cross the start line of the Volvo Ocean Race are gleaming examples of the art, craft and science which goes into elite race-yacht design and construction.

The deep black of the carbon fibre mast contrasts with the glowing colours of the sponsor’s artwork on the sails and hull. Every winch runs perfectly, ropes are spotless, the deck scrubbed to within an inch of its life.

The yachts that finish days or weeks later look... well, shall we say – a little different? The sails might be patched back together after a mid-ocean blowout. Winches could be running rough after weeks at sea and minimal servicing. And if the salt water has got anywhere near the microprocessors and circuits then the IT boys will be working overtime.

Then there’s the smell. And the indescribable, no-specific gunk that can gather in every corner of the cockpit and interior. It could be decomposing food. A sorry-looking power bar wrapper. Hair. Or something much, much worse. If you’ve sailed on the boat, then you tend to miss this building up. But step onboard from a fresh shower, in clean clothes – and bring on the pressure washer!

And that’s just the winners.

If it went really badly? A jagged stump could be all that’s left of the mast. Or ugly carbon fibre patches could be covering damage to the hull and structure.

So as soon as the champagne corks have been popped, the teams must get down to the hard work of preparing for the next leg. And sure enough, just a couple of weeks later, the boats will be back on the start line in all their gleaming glory.

How is this miracle achieved? Enter The Boatyard - a concept introduced for the 2014-15 edition, to take care of the tuning, repair and maintenance of the competing yachts, made possible by the one-design Volvo Ocean 65.

For the first time, the maintenance facility was a shared one – fully stocked with all the parts, equipment and knowledge required to get everyone back into perfect race condition.

And it was open to the public, with viewing platforms allowing fans the opportunity to see first-hand the specialist work done in this 1200m2 facility – from the sails being tweaked and tuned to the rigs dismantled, checked and rebuilt.

The Boatyard in action provides a unique insight into the complexity and nature of the race machines and the race.