Wednesday, January 30, 2013

O Neil Cox μιλά για τα νέα VO65 στο Sail Racing Magazine

//Πηγή: Sail Racing Magazine//
Τον Neil Cox τον είχα γνωρίσει στο πέρυσι στο Abu Dhabi κατά τη διάρκεια του VOR και μάλιστα είχαμε κάνει και μια ενδιαφέρουσα κουβέντα πάνω στο Camper μερικές ώρες πριν την εκκίνηση του 3ου σκέλους από το Abu Dhabi στη Sanya.

Neil Cox, Image credits: Ian Roman

Μου είχε κάνει εντύπωση το πόσο άνετος και πρόθυμος ήταν να μιλήσει και να εξηγήσει ότι τον ρωτούσες. Ήταν ένας τύπος που έδειχνε ότι αγαπούσε τη δουλειά του και ευχαριστιόταν κάθε λεπτό που πέρναγε κοντά στα αγαπημένα του σκάφη, τα VO70. 
Σε εκείνη τη συνέντευξη μου είχε πει ότι ήταν παρών σε όλη τη διαδικασία εξέλιξης των 70αριών.
Σήμερα ο Neil Cox είναι σύμβουλος του VOR όσον αφορά την κατασκευή των νέων OD VO65, τον έχει προσλάβει η διοργάνωση για να επιβλέπει την κατασκευή των σκαφών που θα χρησιμοποιηθούν για τις επόμενες δυο διοργανώσεις.
Κατά τη διάρκεια της επίσκεψης του στο ναυπηγείο Green Marine, στο Ην. Βασίλειο για να επιβλέψει το καλούπι του Volvo 65, ο Justin Chisholm από το περιοδικό Sail Racing Magazine τον συνάντησε και του πήρε την παρακάτω συνέντευξη.
Είναι ενδιαφέρον να δούμε πως βλέπει την αλλαγή αυτή ένας από τους ανθρώπους που ξέρει τα πάντα για τον αγώνα και που ειδικά δεν κρύβει την αγάπη του για τα 70αρια.
Το θέμα που απασχολεί όλους είναι το πόσο γερά και αξιόπιστα θα είναι τα νέα σκάφη, ειδικά αν αναλογιστούμε το τι έγινε στον τελευταίο αγώνα και στην παρακάτω συνέντευξη απαντά και για αυτούς τους προβληματισμούς.
Στην κουβέντα μας μου είχε πει ότι: "At the end of the day there is no boat you can't break… it's just as simple as that...", και από ότι φαίνεται συνεχίζει να το πιστεύει αυτό και για τα νέα VO65.

SRM: The new design has been touted as being designed to last two cycles of the race at least. What challenges has that brought and what are the big differences compared to the previous Volvo Open 70s? 
Image credits: Ian Roman
NC: They started with a blank canvas, where previously individual team design decisions decisions were made around the Volvo rule. That rule drove us to every decision we made.
Previously we would put the minimum into it to guarantee getting the most out of it. Now we have the liberty to say OK let’s do this or that, like put a little extra weight in here or there. At the end of the day though we are still building a grand prix boat.
Compared to the 70, there are a couple of more ring frames and the thickness of the skins are different. This will be a pretty robust boat for sure.
From stem to stern there is plenty of structure to support everything. It is going to be a very stiff hull and it will probably shake your teeth out when you start to stuff it into things – it won’t be too forgiving that’s for sure.
We are just so conditioned to the 70s where we know all the little pitfalls, but here the volume of the boat is vastly different and there is more structure in the boat than we have had in the past – then all of a sudden we are having to deal with the challenge of getting things through the boat easily.
We’ve tried to make the boat friendly to sail. You don’t want to let yourself become a slave to the boat. We are trying to make the thing robust for two races. You don’t want to compromise anything, but at the same time there are still certain practicalities of a boat you have to deliver.
Oh, and these boats come with a warranty. That is unheard of – normally you just hand the keys over and say good luck with it. I would hate to be the person writing that up, it won’t be simple.

SRM: Would you describe the new boats as ‘bullet-proof’ then?
NC: There is no composite structure that is bullet proof and I will never be quoted as saying that you can not break this boat.
The change to one design racing means the greatest speed advantage will come from being able to push the boat harder than anyone else. How do you protect against that?
At the end of the day it is going to be the more skilled crews who know when to throttle back as opposed to just keep sending it.
That hasn’t changed from the 70s, but with all those boats being different, you knew your strengths and you weaknesses – now all the boats will be the same the strength and weaknesses will come from the humans.

SRM: What drove the decision to opt for a deck stepped rather than through deck mast for the new boat? What are your thoughts on how that might affect performance? 
Image credits: Ian Roman
NC: The deck stepped rig has driven a lot of changes to the boat design. Once upon a time we knew where the rig went and we knew how to get everything through the boat for it. Now that area is all missing and that has made a huge difference.
There are a few things other we have had to work around, like the spreader base of the rig is at almost max beam, so all of a sudden that has a massive effect on the sail plan.
The rig decisions have been made for the right reasons – it will make the rig a lot lighter than the previous one with the narrower spreader base.
On the Volvo 70s the minimum spreader base was four metres and we all went to the minimum to get better upwind sheeting angles. Obviously the Farr office has dealt a lot with the Open 60s and the technology that has come from them and without a doubt there have been some good thoughts that have come from that fleet.

SRM: Like always, the last race had its fair share of nasty injuries to the sailors. Are there any design features in the new boat which will specifically make life on board safer for the crews?

NC: Twin hatches are good. The cockpit is slightly deeper which is a bit safer but you are still going to get plenty of water in there – it’s still going to be a swimming pool.
We are trying to be smarter with what we do with the antenna masts and where we had two life rafts across the back of the boat – the more you can steer water out of the boat the better and safer is is for everybody.
Safety has been a driving theory but there comes a point where the boat just gets to terminal velocity and no matter what you have got there its just going to be a massive deluge of water. When you look at that footage where Nico [Chris Nicholson, CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand skipper] got washed off the wheel in the last race you realise there are some things you just can’t stop.
Yes there will be very good spray guards off the top that will go out to the sheer to try and stop the flow of water coming back, but the big ones like that, that break over the foredeck and end up coming back into the cockpit three metres in the air, well it doesn’t matter what you build.
We are trying to build a better set of Zimmer frames around the helm to in some way get more protection there. The problem is that these guys, for their own performance like being able to stand high behind the wheel almost looking down over the bowsprit. The challenge for us is to create something where they can see the end of the pole and not be standing their waiting to cop a full green water wave in the chest.
The Zimmer frame itself is going to end up being quite robust and we are looking at whether we can build some kind of guard around it to physically block the water out. The issue there is that transferring that energy could rip the whole thing out. It’s always disappointing to see a steering pedestal lying on the cockpit floor. That’s never fast.

SRM: The boats are being built to tight one-design tolerances, but they leave the yard how will changes be prevented?
NC: Everything will be documented and unlike before you won’t have the big shore teams so there would be no reason to have four boatbuilders working on your boat every time it goes in the cradle. Some of the suppliers may be the only ones who want to work on their gear depending on who we are talking about. All of the detail on that sort of stuff is a work in progress though.

SRM: The teams won’t need big shore crew like before because work on the boats at stopovers will be done by a centalised shore crew managed by the race organisers. As a veteran shore crew boss, what are your thoughts on that concept?
NC: From what we have known in the past the centralised team takes a very cool aspect out of the race. That said, I have worked with Tom [Taubert, COO] in Alicante on the numbers and yes it makes sense.
Being able to pool spares, the teams not needing two rigs, a spare keel, rudders, daggerboards, all the big ticket items, saves the teams a lot of money.
It is going to be a really good team and everyone will know that the work would be no different if they had a shore crew of their own to do it. Plus they will all be able to have their own representation their to oversee any work. But at the end of the day the majority of the work will be done through the shared services.

SRM: There was a lot of disappointment from fans of the race that the new boats were going to be smaller and therefore slower than the Volvo Open 70s. When we spoke to the race organisers and the designers they said the speed differences would be marginal and that it was possible the new boats could be faster on some points of sail. What are your thoughts on that?
NC: I am just speculating like everybody else, but at reaching angles I don’t think they will ever be faster than a 70. But upwind and downwind, maybe. At the end of the day it is a 65’ boat as compared to a 70’ boat with more volume.
There is no way these boats could ever be described as underpowered, but you will never be able to stop people saying, “if we were on the 70 now we would be doing this speed or that speed”. That will never go away until you lose the generation of us that were involved with the 70s.
But you are still going to get on this boat and absolutely have the ride of your life. These boats are going to be well powered up and they will be a little lighter than the 70s were so that’s going to help.
The displacement is a bit different, there’s not as much righting moment, but it’s still a very powerful boat. There will be plenty of times you will be on this boat and wishing for it to slow down. 

>>>interview by Sail Racing Magazine >>>

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