An exclusive insight into the Volvo Ocean Race Boatyard facilities in Lisbon

The Volvo Ocean Race is known as the world‘s longest and toughest offshore sailing competition. Every three years, a couple of teams composed of the best sailors on the planet set off to circumnavigate the world. In 7 months time – on the 22nd of October – the adventure begins once again as the Volvo Ocean Race crews will cast off from the port of Alicante in Spain and head out to open ocean. So, among yachtsmen, 2017 means “race year”!

volvo race lisbon

But before casting off, the seven 22m long racing boats, called Volvo Ocean 65, undergo a complete refit in the Volvo Ocean Race Boatyard at the Pedrouços Dock in Lisbon. Since the 2013-14 race edition, the Volvo fleet follows the one-design concept, which means that all competing boats are completely identical, apart from the painting.

volvo race lisbon

The 40 workers at the boatyard facility in the capital city of Portugal are in charge of overhauling all seven VO65s – a massive refit operation, which is unique in the world. The entire refit process takes around 15 weeks time – in total some 6.000 man hours – and is very well organised: The boatyard facility is dived into different sections or “working bays” and in each one of these departments, the boat is kept for 3 weeks: During the first 21 days of the overhaul process, the yacht is completely dismantled: A VO65 is composed of some 500 parts and every single component, deck hardware, electronics etc. are taken off the boat, labelled and later taken apart for closer inspection. An ultrasonic analysis of the boat’s structure, including the keel, rudders and daggerboards is performed during this first working phase in order to detect failures and delaminations.

volvo race lisbon

After that, the boat’s hull and entire deck is sanded several times and the primer is painted in various layers. As soon as the pre-paint tasks are complete, it’s time to mount all the equipment back on the boat. 1,5 kms of wire for all electronics and hydraulic systems are newly organised and installed. All the rigging, mast, spreaders, boom, as well as rudders, daggerboards, the bowsprit, keel etc. are also completely overhauled, sanded, prepared and painted in the meantime.

volvo race lisbon

Some 9 weeks after entering the boatyard, the Volvo Ocean 65 is ready for the final painting and branding, according to each team’s individual wishes. The very last step of the refit includes the re-installation of the rigging, rudders, daggerboards and the keel, so to turn the boat into a “ready to sail” configuration. So, as you can see, the overhaul of a 22m racer is a highly complex process, but the experienced specialist team in Lisbon manages to finish a boat every three weeks and hand it over to the race teams.

volvo race lisbon

The Volvo Ocean Race 2017-18 promises to be a special edition with a particularly long racecourse – in fact the longest in the history of this event: 46.000 nautical miles! The crews will stop in 13 cities across the globe: Alicante, Lisbon, Cape Town, Melbourne, Hong Kong, Guangzhou, Auckland, Itajaí, Newport RI, Cardiff, Gothenburg, Aarhus and The Hague… So, wherever you live, you’ll have the possibility to take a closer look at the Volvo fleet and say hello to skippers and crews!


Save the date: Volvo Ocean Race Village + In-Port Races Melbourne – Australia: 27. Dec 2017 – 02. Jan 2018!


Yannick Kethers


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