Service at sea

One of the world’s most thrilling sporting events, the Volvo Ocean Race, draws to a close this week in Gothenburg, Sweden. As the traveling engine expert for the race, Volvo Penta’s Magnus Gedda has had a front row seat for all the action. Magnus has been on call 24/7 to provide the seven Ocean Race yachts with dedicated service — in much the same way that Volvo Penta supports its own customers.
As Volvo Penta’s manager for technical service, Magnus Gedda travels along with the Volvo Ocean Race, following the seven yachts from port to port throughout the nine-month race. Magnus is no stranger to the world’s most challenging sailing event, having followed the 2011-2012 competition from Alicante to Galway.

This time around, he’s been with the boats since before they ever even hit the water, traveling from Volvo Penta headquarters in Gothenburg to the final assembly shipyard in Hythe, on England’s south coast, to support with engine installation. With the new Volvo One Design boats, all equipped with Volvo Penta D2-75 sail drive engines, application work was a much different experience compared with previous races — where each boat was built according to a combination of Volvo Ocean Race guidelines and individual team specifications.

Since doing final inspections before the boats set sail from Alicante, Magnus has been on hand at all 10 stopovers; he hasn’t returned home to Sweden since January, due to the greater distances. It’s been a grueling trek but an excellent opportunity.

“I’m grateful to Volvo Penta for the ability to travel the world — it feels a bit like a traveling circus,” he says, laughing.

On the high seas
But at the same time, it’s up to Magnus — and Magnus alone — to solve any problem that arises with the Volvo Penta engines, whether they’re in port undergoing routine maintenance or in the middle of the ocean — where Magnus is only a phone call away. This is the Volvo Ocean Race, and because the unexpected can occur at any time, no news is usually good news.


Magnus Gedda, Volvo Penta’s manager for technical service for the Volvo Ocean Race, provides engine training for the Volvo Ocean Race crews in Alicante.

Before setting off from Alicante, to lower the risk of engine problems on the water, Magnus provided each sailing team with extensive training that will enable them to fix most issues themselves; each boat is also equipped with 20 essential engine spare parts.

That training came in handy right away. Three days into the race, Team Mapfre of Spain couldn’t get their engine started. With their battery running low and no time to lose, the team tried everything it could, before contacting Magnus, who, via satellite phone, helped them to get the engine started up mechanically. “We were so happy that we hugged at the dock when the team arrived in Cape Town,” Magnus recalls.

Team Mapfre

Team Mapfre’s Xabi Fernandez, Anthony Marchand and Antonio Cuervas-Mons get a good look at their boat’s D2-75 Volvo Penta engine. (Credit: Francisco Vignale/MAPFRE/Volvo Ocean Race.)

Even though the boats rely on the wind to make it to their destination, the engines work every day to power everything from the water purifier to the navigational equipment.  Occasionally, though, when the boats encounter a problem at sea, they do need the engines for mobility. When the Dongfeng team broke its mast between Auckland and Itajaí, the Volvo Penta D2-75 Saildrive engine helped get the boat safely to Argentina, where it docked for repairs before preparing to travel the 2,000 nautical miles to rejoin the race in Itajaí.

Magnus and the Volvo Penta engineering team stepped in to assist, using sea trial data for the engines to determine the most fuel-efficient speed and the fuel capacity that would be needed to make the journey. Because the 200-liter fuel tank would be insufficient for such a long voyage, Magnus and the team came up with the idea to use the front ballast water tank for fuel — increasing the fuel volume by 1,000 liters. Using a combination of wind and engine power, the Dongfeng delivery crew was able to reach Itajaí in one single leg without having to stop and refuel along the way.

High-level support
Throughout the race, Magnus and Volvo Penta are there every step of the way, making sure the Volvo Ocean Race boats are in tip-top condition. In much the same way, Volvo Penta’s extensive network of 3,500 dealers stands alongside its customers, providing the same high level of support if they experience a problem at sea. With a long history and presence in the marine leisure industry, Volvo Penta dealers are strategically located to best serve customer needs.

Volvo Penta’s dealers, who are kept to stringent dealer operating standards, receive frequent, in-depth training to ensure their technicians are up-to-date on the latest products and able to provide optimal service. “We’re a global company with a global presence, but we support our customers locally,” says Stephan Orsulic, director of field service support at Volvo Penta. “We want to have expert knowledge and support as close to our customers as possible. And spare parts are always close at hand, as well: Volvo Penta’s access to the logistics systems and warehouses used by Volvo Group allows us to support our customers in a timely and cost-effective way.”

For yachts installed with IPS II and III and IPS I quad, Volvo Penta provides 24/7 Yacht Series Support call-out service for customers. All customers in Europe, Africa, North America and China also have access to 24/7 breakdown support from Volvo Penta’s Uptime Solutions. Starting in 2016 the service will be available globally, with support available in a total of 27 languages, connecting customers to their local dealers. “We want to make sure that no customer is ever stranded without knowing where to turn,” Stephan says. “We strive to provide support where and when our customers need it. When time is of the essence, we’re there to get our customers back on the water as quickly as possible.”