Visitors enjoy a tour during the event hosted by Volvo.
The event has a longer official title, but to the nine countries on five continents with seven boats and the billions of fans following their crews over the world it is known simply as “The Volvo.”
The Volvo Ocean Race was a success during its May 5 to 17 layover in Newport, R.I., the end of the journey’s seventh leg from Brazil to Rhode Island, then onto Lisbon, Portugal, before the finish in Volvo’s own Gothenburg, Sweden.
The race, held every three years, began in Alicante, Spain.
“It is really important to them and it is really important to us,” said Dave Foster, vice president of marketing and corporate communications of the racers to assembled media before a May 15 press junket that included a tour aboard Alvimedica, the American boat that was chasing Dongfeng of China, which edged Abu Dhabi by a mere boat length.
The race was as close a finish as the race has seen over any leg.
A Village for Thousands
Fort Adams in Newport was turned into a 30-building village where tens of thousands of visitors, many of them school children on field trips, arrived from all over America to learn, explore, tour, follow and photograph the racers who endure the hardest conditions in an ocean race around the world.
For the uninitiated, the Volvo Ocean Race (formerly the Whitbread Round the World Race) is a yacht race around the world, held every three years. Originally named after its initiating sponsor, British Whitbread brewing company, it today carries the name of its current sponsor, Swedish automobile, truck and construction manufacturer Volvo.
Though the route is changed to accommodate various ports of call, the race typically departs Europe in October, and in recent editions has had either nine or 10 legs, with in-port races at many of the stopover cities.
The 2015 race, with nearly 39,000 mi. (62,764 km), took nine months to complete, and reached a cumulative TV audience of 2 billion people worldwide.
Each of the entries have a sailing team of nine professional crew who race day and night for more than 20 days at a time on some of the legs. They each have different jobs on board the boat, and on top of these sailing roles, there are two sailors that have had medical training, as well as a sailmaker, an engineer and a dedicated media crew member who sends out videos, emails and other messages.
No fresh food is taken on board, so the crew lives off freeze-dried fare; they will experience temperature variations from 23 to 104 degrees Fahrenheit (negative 5 to 40 degrees Celsius) and will only take one change of clothes. There are no showers allowed on board. Rain is a Godsend.
A Volvo Tour of Alvimedica
Media members got to speak to two members of the American boat, Alvimedica, as part of a magnificent day sponsored by Volvo in the Fort Adams Village. This village was set up in a week from kits in carriers sailed into port two weeks before the sailing yachts arrived.
Dozens of buildings are assembled and lifted into the air in a few days, including several hospitality tents, an exploratory children’s center, a pavilion, a movie theater, a concert hall and many more.
Racers were extremely grateful for and amazed by Newport’s hospitality.
“It’s you against the competition,” said Foster. “Temperature, wind, waves breaking. You’re successful if you can handle those elements. Twenty-seven days without a shower, 24/7 on the water, away from your family for months. It’s amazing, and we are excited to be the sponsor of this race.”
Volvo bought the rights from Whitfield in 1999. The first official Volvo race was 2000 to 2001. “The boats left seven months ago. They stop at five continents,” said Foster. “They cross four oceans, with more than 200 days on the water.”
As Volvo guests and media stepped aboard the Alvimedica, New Zealand bowman Dave Swete, greeted them with a tour. He showed them the email video system on board, where a crew member, specially designated to give live updates of the race, would broadcast over the web to shore bloggers following the race on social media up to the second.
“We broadcast live and gave live interviews to a bar in Newport. There is no internet, but we have emails. It keeps us in a good mood as well,” said Swete. “We were in doldrums in Tahiti, near Antarctica, pretty isolated down there. It’s nice to talk to people out there. Sometimes, you get the feeling that no one is watching you and someone says over the wire, ’we’re watching you.’ We were streaming three-minute videos and seven photos a day for the worldwide media and our site.”
The six remaining boats (one went aground early in the race and could not continue) require four hours racing on board, and four hours off. Crew members constantly shift from bed to stern and back again in a perfectly timed rhythm. The sleeping quarters are very small and slightly claustrophobic.
“The keel is automatic. Everything else is manual,” said Swete. “Your legs stiffen. When we get ashore, we do a lot of squats and cycling. Our legs are gone. You only walk 200 feet. It’s the only exercise we get.”
Swete regaled the press with media stories — how one reporter fell out of the bunk and broke his arm.
“There was this other reporter. He was on the toilet,” said Swete. “We hit a wave and he wasn’t on the toilet anymore.”
Native Newporter Nick Dana is the other bowman, alongside Swete. Coming into his hometown was a tremendous thrill from Brazil before heading out to Portugal and Sweden for the ninth and final leg.
But there was an even greater thrill for Dana.
“Rounding Cape Horn [the southernmost tip of South America] we were in first place. It was the hardest stretch of ocean to get there, finishing the first leg. Any time you have the lead, that’s your favorite part,” said Dana. “We came in fifth here. We couldn’t catch up around Block Island. There was no wind.
“Coming to Newport, I know the water so well. But there was no wind. The tide was going out. It took us two-and-a-half-hours to get from Castle Hill to Fort Adams. That’s just 500 yards. It was agonizing and very frustrating,” he added.
The worst part of the trip was an early leg, Dana added, when one of the boats hit a reef and were stranded, breaking apart.
“You can’t turn back. You can’t not do it. We watched the boat on the rocks and couldn’t do a thing,” he said. “It was difficult to watch and not help. Life is paramount, but we couldn’t get to their side of the island.”
They knew Newport would be welcoming, but they didn’t know how much.
“It’s been great,” said Swete, who hasn’t seen his infant in many months. “The people have been fantastic and we’d like to return in 2018 if race officials let us. They don’t map out the new course yet.”
“We had no idea it would be this big,” added Dana. “I’m very proud.”
The successful Alvimedica 35-ft. (10.6 m) yacht is propelled by a Volvo engine of course.
Volvo’s Double Density Paving Technology
Among the innovations discussed at the May 15 conference in Newport, R.I. was Volvo’s launch of the Intelligent Compaction System with real-time asphalt density calculations.
Volvo Construction Equipment (Volvo CE) recently introduced the Volvo Intelligent Compaction (for select Volvo asphalt compactors available on both the Volvo IC and the Volvo IC with Density Direct) at the World of Asphalt in Nashville, Tenn.
Volvo IC with Density Direct includes the industry’s first real-time density mapping technology.
“Density mapping has been described as the ’holy grail’ of intelligent compaction. The first to come up with the technology will be the one to radically advance the paving industry, it was said, and that’s exactly what Volvo has done,” said Fares Beainy, research engineer of Volvo CE. “For years, contractors have relied on IC systems with stiffness calculations instead of density, which is not the true metric by which contractors are evaluated and paid. With Density Direct, operators have real-time access to the metric that ultimately determines the success of their work and density.
Included with the Density Direct system is a calibration screen, where users set the target density for the project. Once fully calibrated with data specific to the application, the system produces a calculation that is accurate to within 1.5 percent of core sampling.
“This provides a real-time reading of density values over 100 percent of the mat.”
This real-time data enables the operator a chance to make any necessary adjustments while asphalt is being paved. According to Volvo CE, this not only reduces the occurrence of inadequate densities that drive up project costs, but reduces time spent taking core samples, improves quality and leads to much greater uniformity than nuclear gauge testing.
This service will be available in the fourth quarter of this year on new Volvo asphalt compactors, initially including Volvo DD110B, DD120B and DD140B sold in North America.
The new compaction system is the result of a decade-long partnership with the University of Oklahoma’s School of Electrical Engineering.
“Volvo has been a fantastic partner; not only have they provided insight into the market and equipment, but they have also helped us with filing patents,” said Dr. Sesh Commuri, the Gerald Tuma presidential professor at the University of Oklahoma’s School of Electrical Engineering “Thanks to the partnership, we were able to develop, test and make commercial products that require a lot more capability than what the university has.”
“For Volvo, the partnership was great because it gave us access to multi-disciplinary expertise and skills,” said Beainy.
Volvo CE has a long-standing tradition of partnering with universities worldwide on groundbreaking research. Two current partnerships, with Stanford University and Carnegie Mellon University, are exploring emerging technologies to create a future fleet of innovative construction equipment.
“You can’t ask someone else to tell you what the future will look like. You need to create it yourself,” said Jenny Elfsberg, director of emerging technologies of Volvo CE, who led the May 15 afternoon conference in Newport. “We work together with partners, customers, competitors and academia to do just that.”
Urge Congress to Invest in Highways
Göran Lindgren, president and CEO Volvo CE North America told attendees to the event that Volvo North America sales were up eight percent and that sales in Europe were up some 10 percent, on top of a 22 percent gain last year.
This improvement, despite a five percent drop in the worldwide market due mainly to losses in sales in China, Lindgren said. “We had 39 product launches in 2015,” said Lindgren. “And we also had a successful launch of T4 engines. We have improved productivity and fuel efficiency in our machinery across the board.”
Lindgren said that Volvo CE is meeting customer demands in many new ways, especially in the use of better technology and fairer prices in rental fleets of used equipment, keeping customer project costs down.
“We are building a new warehouse in Memphis, Tenn., that will be one million square feet,” said Lindgren. “We will be moving in July to August. From that hub, we can get to anywhere in North America in just a few hours, or into Latin America.”
A new database and technology advancements will give the customer the ability to see the history of each piece of previously run equipment, and how the machines are driven.
“They can see data going way back. They can see how much the machine has been driven. When was it backed up? What repairs? It is a great tool for us, providing key information for the customer,” said Lindgren. “This is what the customer has been asking for. We understand this and we are now offering it.”
Lindgren added that after the economic downturn of 2008, many construction companies and individuals were gun shy to purchase new equipment; there is preference now to building their own rental fleet of machinery, earth movers, dozers and loaders.
“Does the brand play a role in the rental industry? I think it does,” said Lindgren. “I think our brand does.’
Lindgren also said that Volvo is immersed in lobbying Congress to restore national highway funding. “There is no funding in the bills now,” he said. “This remains critical. The price in oil and gas is causing uncertainty. There are environmental concerns. The frustrating thing is, they know what to do in Washington, D.C., but they can’t get it done. It is critically important to get that new highway bill passed.
“We’ve been here before. If oil prices remain in the $60 a barrel range, it’s good for the consumer at the pump,” said Lindgren. “For us in the industry, it will be okay, but many companies are scared.”
“We have to encourage Congress to pass a long-term highway bill,” he said. “Traffic congestion costs consumers $121 billion a year. Capital spending on highways and roads has fallen each year. We urge infrastructure investments while fostering effective transportation methods. Ultimately, we would urge the passage of a highway user fee. This would go a long way to solve the problem and invest in highway construction long-term.”