Volvo Penta’s Johannes Karlsson will be a busy man for the next eight months. He is the technical support engineer for the Volvo Ocean Race – delivering both on-site and on-call engine expertise and support to the sailing teams.
As an official supplier to the Volvo Ocean Race 2017-18, Volvo Penta is providing D2-75 engines on the Volvo Ocean 65 boats, gasoline sterndrives for the team support RIBs used in the host cities, as well as power for the Volvo Pavilion.
Johannes Karlsson, is responsible for making sure all these systems are in perfect working order for the duration of the competition – more than eight months.
“It’s a big task, but it’s exciting too,” said Karlsson. “I naturally tend to be drawn to adventures and challenges where there is a need to fix and repair things. There is a satisfaction in knowing I have found a solution.”
Karlsson is a key part of The Boatyard, a one-stop mobile shop that travels to each stopover location. The Boatyard is staffed by 50 technical experts and fully stocked with spares and tools to provide consistent levels of maintenance and repairs for the systems on all the racing boats, including electronics, rigging and sails, as well as the engines.
“It’s fantastic to be back on the race,” said Karlsson, who previously worked on the 2005-06 and 2008-09 and editions. “We didn’t have The Boatyard concept on my last Volvo Ocean Race, but now it’s a really professional service.
“I have to work as quickly as possible, as it’s such a time-sensitive competition,” he said. “If something is going to take a long time to fix, then it can be quicker to swap the entire engine for a new one – and later repair the one that’s been taken out – so that the teams can use their boats again immediately.”
He can also call on the expertise of Volvo Penta’s global dealer network to provide additional support as needed. “Before each stopover, I get reports from the teams so I know what likely needs to be done,” he added. “I also do a thorough inspection from a specific check-list before the in-port races, and then make any repairs that are needed. In Auckland there will be a three-week stopover, so I have scheduled a full service of each engine package there.”
Reliability at sea and on land
Prior to the start of the race, Karlsson conducted engine safety training sessions for the teams’ on-board mechanics, showing them how to work with the engine and related parts if anything should go wrong at sea. This included addressing different scenarios, such as how to manage an emergency start of the engine, what to do if there is water in the engine or issues with low fuel, how to fix loose propellers and how to bleed the engine.
Karlsson has a stock of extra engine parts on hand ashore, but each team is also required to carry an identical supply of spare parts on board, including: a fuel filter, bolt (actuator replacement), alternator belt, bleed screw, 15W40 oil, a feed pump, starter motor, speed sensor, MDI unit, start button panel, impeller and jump starter.
“As the boat and engine are the same as for the 2014-15 race, we have a pretty trouble-free process, but we have to consider things such as the effect of the G-forces in tough conditions on the engines, and the individual habits of the teams,” said Karlsson.
“We have an extremely robust and reliable engine package. And our engine is backed by the strength of our worldwide service and support. What we deliver for the race is similar to what we deliver every day through our global Volvo Penta dealer network. On a daily basis, many of our customers use their boats in extreme conditions or remote locations, relying on quick access to parts and service.”
In addition to providing technical service for the racing boats’ engines, Karlsson will oversee maintenance and service support for the Volvo Penta gasoline engines that power the RIB boats used in port and power generation engines that provide power to the Volvo Pavilion in the Race Village erected in each host city.
During the race, Karlsson will be lucky to get back to his home in Sweden for a brief visit.
“I am used to the travel, and it’s an adventure to be part of such a huge event,” he said. “Sometimes I get the chance to see a bit of the cities on the route, but I have to be available to work at all times. It’s particularly exciting to see the In-Port races, when I help the race management team, so I am on the water in the middle of the action.”
Follow the updates from Johannes Karlsson in his Boatyard Diaries, on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and LinkedIn, as he shares his experiences throughout the Volvo Ocean Race 2017-18.