The Volvo Ocean 65 fleet will be returned to the caring hands of the Boatyard technicians in Lisbon before the start of the race. All systems on the boats will serviced and the boats will receive their measurement certificates that will allow them to race.
You might have noticed that the Volvo Ocean Race teams have been chalking up plenty of miles recently. Well, with the Assembly Period starting on Monday 18 September, it's their last chance to get to grips with the boat for a couple of weeks.
So what is an Assembly Period, and why do we need it? It's a mandatory part of the pre-race preparation, when all teams must report to the Boatyard facility in Lisbon, Portugal, so their boats can be lifted out of the water and given a final once over before the start of another ocean marathon.
Assembly Period 2017-18
Starts: Monday 18 September
Ends: Saturday 30 September
Boats must be at the Boatyard in Lisbon
One of the unique elements of the One Design era is that all major maintenance is done by a central Boatyard facility, run by Volvo Ocean Race staff, instead of by the teams themselves. Just like dropping your Volvo car off at the dealer for a 50,000-mile service, the Boatyard takes charge.
But instead of getting a coffee and waiting in the customer lounge, the Assembly Period gives Volvo Ocean Race teams some invaluable time on shore – and they'll head to Newcastle, UK for a rigorous sea survival course.
With nearly 9,000 nautical miles until the next big service in Cape Town, the Boatyard will do a lot more than just kick the tyres. The masts will all come out to be scanned by non-destructive testing specialists to confirm that the challenging Leg Zero racing didn't leave any lasting effects.
To guarantee the best level of service the Boatyard uses the original manufacturers to maintain the equipment on the Volvo Ocean 65s. This means that, for example, Harken will work alongside the Boatyard hardware specialists to service the winches, Dutch Mastervolt electricians will check the Lithium Ion batteries, Italian hydraulics specialists will service the Cariboni keel system and British electronics experts from B&G will calibrate the instruments.
In short, the Boatyard becomes a dusty, oily version of the United Nations and the core staff jumps from 20 to 55 during the intensive maintenance periods.
We're confident they’re in great shape and by the time we're done with them the boats will be fit to go the distance, all the way to Cape TownNeil Cox, Head of the Boatyard
The result? That the Volvo Ocean Race crews are able to push their boats relentlessly, safe in the knowledge that there is this high level of care waiting for them in the next Host City.
Different legs will put different levels of wear and tear on the boats and their crews, and the level of service waiting on shore reflects that. Major overhauls (where the boats will be taken out of the water, and the boats given a full service) are reserved for Cape Town, Hong Kong, Auckland, Itajaí and Cardiff.
Lighter touch ups are reserved for Melbourne, Newport and Gothenburg where the boats must stay in the water during the stopover.
Beyond carefully checking over the boats after an estimated 12,000 miles of pre-race testing, the Boatyard is charged with confirming that the boats are perfectly identical and will issue the measurement certificates that allow them to race as a one design fleet.
This involves adding corrector weights to individual components like the boom and the mast so that the boats weigh exactly the same, piece by piece and as a whole boat.
Come 30 September, the closest One Design fleet on the open ocean will be shiny clean and street legal, ready to race!