Juan Kouyoumdjian statement on the breakages in the Volvo Ocean Race

Posted on 11 April 2012 by Valencia Sailing

Statement by Juan Kouyoumdjian, designer of the Telefonica, Puma and Groupama boats in the current Volvo Ocean Race:

With our 3 boats safely in Brazil and under the risk of sounding arrogant, I’ll break away from my golden rule of not speaking until the end of the race to put the record straight since I believe we are presented with an intentional manipulation of the truth.

There is a common, spread notion that ALL the participants of this VOR have structural problems, that the situation is unacceptable and that something needs to be done for the future. A fundamental distinction needs to be done between the mast breakages and the rest, and whilst I think it is very important to understand what caused so many mast failures, it is a travesty of the truth to put ALL designs in the same basket when it comes down to the “other” structural issues.

This generalization might suit a specific Team, or person to push any agenda he might have for the future, but out of respect of the hard and serious work done with my Team I need to speak up.

In the first edition of the VO70s, we had 2 triumphs to celebrate that as designers we are very proud of. One is obviously that our design was driven to victory by a very good crew and the other one is that our 2 boats [both ABN AMRO] were the only ones that completed the full circumnavigation without major structural problems. This celebration was faded by the public generalization that because one boat sunk and others had structural failures, then ALL of the boats had problems and the rules had to be changed. Which in fact they did, for the worse!

The Puma boat is one of the three Juan Kouyoumdjian designed in the current edition of the Volvo Ocean Race. Photo copyright Amory Ross / Puma Ocean Racing

I didn’t say anything publicly then and moved on. However, seeing the same generalization occurring now, I’d like to stick to the facts and so allow for conclusions to be made without generalizations.

• A VO70 cannot be designed not to break. In fact, any boat in a round the world race cannot be designed not to break. So ultimately, breakages are in the hands of the crew.

• Puma won leg 5 without a major structural problem and this due to the excellence and experience of its crew.

• Telefonica finished 2nd in leg 5 with a hull delamination in port mid bow which did not prevent her from racing.

• Telefonica’s pit stop in Cape Horn was not a necessity but rather a very clever strategical decision based on having 3rd place assured and a weather window to exploit.

• Groupama, notwithstanding of an excellent management of the boat during leg 5 to see misfortune hit them with a broken mast, has sailed on her own means to Brazil without structural problems.

So, while we focus in understanding why there have been so many problems with the rigs, I’d beg not to generalize and avoid putting in the same basket the good work and brilliance of some engineers with that of others which are clearly not the same.

Juan Kouyoumdjian.
Valencia, April 11th, 2012.

3 Comments For This Post

  1. roca Says:

    JK reacts to the growing talks about a new VOR one design. He would loose millions of euro. As long as VOR is raced in this class (or a new class) he is sure to sell 2-3 projects every edition, it is a lot of money. With OD he would loose all contracts.
    For what is worth I personally agree with him that a volvo in OD would not be the same and not in a direction I like.

  2. Lunafan Says:

    Mmmmm….. Bounder, Rambler……….

  3. Scott Holman Says:

    There were no keel-box issues in this round, which is amazing, considering what happened in 2005/6. But masts broke right and left. Which is a design fault, and which is a crew error? The purists want to keep the Open 70 rule, while the realists are watching the support for the race evaporate. Costs have just gotten too high, while results seem to be random.

    Much has been learned from the Open 70 boats, and the canting keel is probably here to stay. But keeping the Volvo going means cutting costs and evening out the competition. One design may not be the best solution, but it is a solution.

1 Trackbacks For This Post

  1. VOR down to two boats - SailNet Community Says:

    […] VOR down to two boats WOW! JuanK speaks out on the breakage issues for VSail: Juan Kouyoumdjian statement on the breakages in the Volvo Ocean Race | VSail.info […]


Sailing Calendar