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Behind the Hardware: Volvo Ocean Race Hong Kong Stopover

One thing is for sure, Hong Kong was like no stopover we have had yet. From Alicante through Lisbon, Cape Town, Melbourne, and now Hong Kong, this was certainly one of the shortest and busiest service stops we’ve seen.

After two very grueling back-to-back legs, the VO65s have taken a serious beating and covered an incredible number of miles. The previous stop in Melbourne did not provide a full service haul-out and so it was inevitable the Boatyard would have a big to-do list in Hong Kong. Unlike previous stopovers, the Boatyard crew would have only four days to get all the service work done before the boats would be ready to race again.

Luckily, there is a great communication system that ensures the Harken Tech Team can receive live information regarding service requests directly from the boats. How is this done? The system uses a dynamic “live” spreadsheet that can be filled in by the racing crews while out on the water, mid-leg. The spreadsheet continually updates, so the team on the ground knows immediately about any special requests, additional spares, or anything else that can be planned for in advance. This helps avoid last- minute or surprise requests.

While in Hong Kong, we joined the Turn the Tide on Plastic shore crew in their container to see how they service other Harken hardware such as blocks and traveler systems. We were impressed with the diligence and swiftness at which they carried out standard maintenance procedures. It’s great to see the teams continue to run like well-oiled machines half-way through such a long race.

The overall layout of the Hong Kong stopover was unique in that the Boatyard was about a 10-minute walk from where the boats actually docked. As a result, the Tech Team put their fitness to the test wheeling all 56 winches between both locations, summiting a few rather large ramps on the way! The pressure was further increased by the fact that the boats had to be taken twenty minutes up the river for haul-out. This required the team to carefully plan for each boat’s availability for removing and reinstalling winches and their components. The result, a few late nights with head lamps!

So what comes next? After a quick jaunt up to Guangzhou, it’s back to Hong Kong for the start of Leg 6 to Auckland, New Zealand. That means just over 6,000 nm of intense sailing before the Boatyard is back up and running again. Until then, enjoy the race and look for our next round of updates from Auckland!

- The Harken Tech Team