While the sails across the Volvo Ocean Race fleet are identically supplied by North Sails, speed differences on the one design Volvo Ocean 65s occur as the teams learn how best to use them. Slight variations of angle, trim and tuning can translate to miles earned or lost.
Amongst the new lessons for the 2017-18 race will be an expanded sail inventory, increasing from seven sails used in the 2014-15 race to now eight sails. Gautier Sergent, North Sails designer, explains why the inventory increased:
“The teams were forever changing configurations in 10-15 knots upwind and tight reaching. When using the masthead zero the teams were pushing the boat too hard. Changing to the J1 made them under powered. So one of the changes we made for 2017 was to add a J0, which fits between the MHO and J1 and covers that range. We expect the amount of sail changes will reduce significantly with the addition of the J0.”
The introduction of a J0 to the sail inventory will now see the Fractional Code Zero, or FRO, which was previously used in a very small upwind range between the J1 and masthead zero, to now be a dedicated downwind sail. With the 2017-18 course to have three times more Southern Ocean racing, the FRO will be designed to harness this decidedly downwind course.