The new European MOD70 trimarans are making the case for ocean racing between large one-design boats. If the racing they are enjoying is any indication, the next Volvo race, which will switch to one-design "Volvo 65's", may well be a success.
The Mod70's are the next generation of ocean going trimarans, an improvement on the ORMA 60's which developed into something too highly strung and fragile to last long enough to provide a sponsor return. They 70's are longer and a little narrower with similar sail area to the ORMA 60's. They have a similar maximum speed (in the 40 knot range) but are much more stable and strongly built, and thus can be pressed much harder by their small crews. The boats are a true one-design, with boats supplied complete by the class and allowed to differ only in minor ways. There are currently four boats complete and racing- three are commercially sponsored and one is essentially privately sponsored (if a de Rothschild can be considered private). You can read more about the boats here.
The class introduced itself by coming to the US and then racing back across the Atlantic. This inaugural race saw 5 day times for all the boats but one that hit something and broke a daggerboard. The winning time was 4 days 21 hours (an average of over 25 knots). The boats proved robust right out of the box, and plenty fast, with immediate 24 hour runs faster than any monohull has managed.
The second organized event is the "European Tour". This consists of five linked races, all over 500 miles and several over 1,000. Boats will also compete in a day race in each port, a format similar to the Volvo. Legs 1 and 2 are complete, with close racing the norm. The boats all completed the second 1,200 mile race within 1 hour 15 minutes. Lead changes were common and the tactical racing was fun to follow on the race website.
The Cascais in-port racing will take place this Friday and Saturday (9/14 and 15), and the next offshore leg begins Monday 9/17, and works the boats to Marseille, France. The race tracker is here.