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.

15 Comments For This Post

  1. VR Says:

    K making friends.

  2. silvestre Says:

    I think you did well by breaking the golden rule this time. May be VOR needs to listen more to everybody in an open meeting and not to grant to the economic interests. Yes go to Arabia or China but please send the boats on the right weather time to Cape Horn.

  3. Paul Elvstrom Says:

    I read that Abu Dhabi was going 41 Knots when she flew off a wave getting air. they landed and had a core faliure / delam on the side of the boat. Those are powerboat speeds and impact loads. The boats certainly aren’t using powerboat type laminates.

    In regards to the comments by Juan K above, is he basically coming out ans saing at the end of the article that his engineering is brilliant and the boats that have failed so far have had crappy engineering?

    Are people pointing the finger at him and his company?

    Telefonica had a delam, both Puma and Groupama have had failures in the rigging, but like he says, it’s probably the sailors or specific fittings int he rig. They are pushing the boats harder than they are designed for.

    The hulls should have Airex R63 Linear PVC foam throughout the bottoms and sides. That does not shear. Corecell will shear and delam.

  4. buck Says:

    What a blow-hard bunch of nonsense. I can’t see much substance in this reasoning, save for the aggressive attempt to preserve this man’s outsize ego.
    Frankly it’s impossible for anyone to truly assess the adequacy of the designs without more closely scrutinizing the damage in each case.

  5. malcolm sykes Says:

    Well said.
    Don’t let the safety &*^(&$%$#……. rule the race next time.
    If only Juan Kouyoumdjian had designed Camper.

  6. Argentinean BS Says:

    What Juan K doesn’t say is that with 3 boats out of 5 he’s got all the probabilities to win. Big deal…

    With egomaniac, arrogant and greedy people like him and Knut Frostad deciding the future of the race you can be assured there will be 3 boats in the next edition. Any bets?

    Groupama is out, Abu Dhabi Tourism don’t want to see a sailing boat ever again and the Chinese officials feel their team is a fraud. Ian Walker and Mike Sanderson made a quick buck with the “naive” Asian but killed the sponsorship market.

  7. D Conner Says:

    This is the same man that designed the (speedboat) come Rambler were the keel snapped off… right…. The VOR race needs a overhaul…

  8. Kuba Says:

    I thing there is one important sentence: “So ultimately, breakages are in the hands of the crew.” Every crew must know when stop pushing too hard. Every race boat has its limit. You must be smart on risk-management.

  9. Peter Says:

    A completelly unnecessary statement, again.

    At Oracle they told him to stay quiet not to offend anyone, but now he has no one on top to tell him the same thing and he is not helping his own business.

  10. Michael Says:

    It is a shame for the whole race, that there are so many problems with the structures.
    No doubt about, that JuanK knows how to design fast boats, but he shouldn´t tell us stories!
    Telefonica made a repairstop becouse of the good weather window! For sure!
    And only Juan forgot the structual bow problems and all the water inside, Groupama had at the finish in Auckland. And nobody told us why Telefonica had a 3-day repair job at their bow in Auckland. Again just for fun.
    JuanK please don´t point with fingers when having enough problems!

  11. Rob Weiland Says:

    The statement requires a bit of engineering.

    Good boats though Juan, compliments for that.

    Real problem is to find balance. Stronger boats will be pushed harder, requiring even fitter crew and even stronger bits and bobs.

    The rig problems should be relatively easy to resolve, pain in the butt right now for sure.

    The pressure to perform is enormous. Sponsors and managers should sometimes take the foot of the pedal as well and look in the mirror every now and then. This is true sport, with winners and unavoidably losers.

    Knee jerk reaction would be to go One Design. With all respect, that would remove the Grand Prix element. Equipment sport needs development and the Volvo is the ultimate test.

  12. L North Says:

    Juan K is so full of himself. Wait until his AC 72 gets to San Francisco and Terry and his band of Keelboat Sailors blow the thing up. You can see the writing on the wall for this one. Artemis is going to end very badly and there is no one to blame but Paul Cayard. He’s totally lost in the sauce in Valencia. How do you have a team with over 100 sailors and designers and have only 1 (One) multihull guy??? Total arrogance thoughout the upper management of this team. What did Terry say about the recent capsize? “I felt I didn’t put us in a position of risk” WTF is that supposed to mean? Turning downwind with no hull speed after a crappy tack is multihull 101. Burying the bows while being downspeeed is not a position of risk? The wave piercing bows need hull speed to create lift. Terry is in the position of risk.

  13. 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.

  14. Lunafan Says:

    Mmmmm….. Bounder, Rambler……….

  15. 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.

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