All eight boats – the seven from the last edition, plus the new boat being built at Persico Marine in Italy – will feature the unit, which can already provide enough power to run the essential onboard systems in the event of mechanical failure.
Depending on the results of continued pre-race testing, its use could be mandatory at times during the 2017-18 edition in order to provide results during real-world race conditions and begin to reduce the amount of fuel used by the boats for their electronic systems.
One boat has already been installed with the unit for testing, and the results have been significant, according to the Race’s Director of Boats and Maintenance, Nick Bice.
"Our tests have shown no noticeable impact on speed performance in terms of increase of drag" - Nick Bice
“In the last few years, we’ve been working hard on alternative energy,” he explained. “The hydro-generator is effectively a propeller which you drop over the back of the boat, similar to a small outboard, which spins around with the water flowing, generating electricity to be fed back to the batteries on the boat.
“Our tests have shown no noticeable impact on speed performance in terms of increase of drag. The results have been positive enough to convince me there’s no reason why in the future we can’t be energy neutral on the race course.”
The announcement is the eighth in a series of 10 being made by the Volvo Ocean Race in 10 days.
"We’ve sailed about 3,500 miles with the hydro-generator on the back of the boat and during that time we didn’t have to turn on the engine" - Liz Wardley
Liz Wardley, a two-time Volvo Ocean Race veteran who recently completed a delivery of one of the Volvo Ocean 65s, explained: “We’ve sailed about 3,500 miles with the hydro-generator on the back of the boat and during that time we didn’t have to turn on the engine. That’s saying a lot, as normally, we’d run the engine for an hour to an hour-and-a-half every day.
“We’ve proved what it can do, and now we just need to prove its reliability not just as a back-up power source, but a primary one.”
The fleet-wide refit that is currently underway at The Boatyard facility in Lisbon will be completed by June 2017 – four months before the start of the next edition in October 2017.
Upgrades are being made across over 500 individual line items in many areas of the boat including composites, masts, deck gear, electronics and engineering. In addition, all boats will undergo a full One Design paint job. For the full re-fit list, click here.
Last week, the Volvo Ocean Race made key announcements on crew rules regarding women sailors, a new communicator that will allow the athletes to send social media updates from the oceans, the building of an eighth Volvo Ocean 65 to join the existing fleet, the introduction of bespoke new premium team bases to enhance the pit lane experience in the Race Villages and the use of M32 catamarans to increase the amount of guest sailing at each stopover.
Monday’s news was about an intense period of pre-race qualification sailing that includes the Rolex Fastnet Race, and on Tuesday, Race Management announced changes to the scoring system to encourage strategic risk-taking. There will be two further announcements this week.