CZone passes the ultimate offshore endurance test

CZone passes the ultimate offshore endurance test

Volvo Ocean Race: There’s no harsher or more gruelling marine environment in which to test the reliability of the advanced CZone digital switching system than in the toughest maritime event in the world, the Volvo Ocean Race.

Seven identically equipped 63ft yachts, 11 international ports, 40,000 nautical miles circumnavigating the globe, nine months – a true test of passion, perseverance, emotion and endurance, pain and gain … tactics and master strokes.

However, it is the performance of the on-board systems throughout the toughest conditions in the world that is testament to their quality, technology and to the extensive testing that Mastervolt executes on all of its products.


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These are the reasons Mastervolt was chosen as the official electrical supplier to the Volvo Ocean Race – advanced technology, reliability, integration and support.

And they are the same reasons Mastervolt systems – including the intelligent CZone digital switching system – are key components every new Riviera built at our world-class facility at Coomera on Australia’s Gold Coast.

As one of the world’s leading embracers of new marine technology, Australia’s Riviera was always confident of the system’s performance and, having now installed CZone in over 200 luxury motor yachts since it was first developed in Auckland (New Zealand) in 2008, Riviera is proud to confirm that it has performed flawlessly in the toughest of ocean environments.

The ultimate test

Although it’s a complete circumnavigation of the globe, race participants maintain there are three stand-out moments in the Volvo Ocean Race: the start, the finish, and rounding Cape Horn.

Descending into the Southern Ocean through the Roaring Forties, and down into the Furious Fifties, huge waves and weather systems are free to circle the planet unchecked by any land mass. Along the way, the Volvo Ocean Race passes the most distant point from land in any ocean, before rounding the legendary Cape Horn and sailing north to Brazil.

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The Southern Ocean has always taken its toll on boats, sailors, and systems. Broken masts, shredded sails, damaged structures, and injuries to sailors have been factors in this and previous Volvo Ocean Races. Exacerbating this was the incredible intensity of the 2014-2015 competition.

The sailors were pushed harder than ever, four or five boats within a two-mile radius after thousands of miles racing, swapping gybes day and night with closing speeds of over 30 knots, missing each other by just a few metres.

Wipe-outs and Chinese Gybes left boats lying on their sides in the wind and massive waves, as their crews frantically fought them back upright, pumped water from inside the boat, then resumed the charge towards Cape Horn.

At one stage on this fifth leg, say race organisers, a third of the crews were seasick – so rough were the conditions in the aftermath of the ferocious Cyclone Pam.

These extraordinary conditions, including variations in temperature, shock, and vibration, put the equipment through its paces.

Lasting the distance

Race organisers say that if you total the usage of the products throughout the entire race, it is tantamount to more than a decade of recreational cruising without any breaks.

The Mastervolt philosophy was to prove that if their systems could survive the extreme environment of this race – tracking from the blistering heat of the Tropics into the Roaring Forties and Furious Fifties of the Southern Ocean – then they can survive anything.


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“Private yacht owners will know that if it’s good enough for the Volvo Ocean Race, then it’s certainly up to their own blue-water adventure,” said Bert Jansen, Mastervolt’s Commercial Leader EMEA.

Mastervolt engineer Dennis de Beer, who monitored electrical performance at each stopover of the race, said each power generation system stood up to the brutal conditions, including a hot, spray-laden atmosphere, heavy condensation, and sudden impacts.

“Despite the extremely challenging environment, with high ambient temperatures, little or no wind, and very high humidity, all the teams were happy,” de Beer said.

“These conditions put a huge strain on power equipment, especially as most standard components will start shutting down or de-rating once the temperature nudges 40C.

“The CZone system provided resilience and redundancy as it ran 24/7, and all the critical systems relied on its ‘up time’ – everything from the canting keel pump, water ballast pumps, water makers, media desk and satellite communications needed power for continuous operation, especially on long legs such as the 7200 nautical miles of Stage 5 from Auckland, New Zealand to Itajaí, Brazil.

“At Mastervolt, we design components to cope with these extremes, and they really proved themselves – the extraordinary conditions of the race and the data will help us as we develop the next generation of onboard power and management products.”

The simplicity of CZone

For the uninitiated, CZone enables centralised control of onboard electrical systems.


The touch-screen CZone digital switching system is now a
feature of every new Riviera.

CZone aims to make things simple for boat owners and keep them more informed, providing the end-user with a series of modes simply activated from a single interface, each of which undertakes a complex series of operations.

For instance, aboard a world-class Riviera, CZone issues an audible and visual warning periodically to top up the batteries when a boat’s at anchor, or when shore power fails and battery levels drop. A quiet-ship mode might switch off all the interior lights, entertainment systems and other non-essential ship’s systems at night, except perhaps the courtesy lights in the companionway and lights on the heads.

Simplicity of operation is not achieved at the expense of safety. CZone lets the user know if there is a fault or problem, rather than the user having to identify them by a process of elimination, and while a CZone network relies on data to work, ultimately it has a manual override through a series of simple blade fuses.

A CZone system can be custom-configured in many variations.

Riviera’s electrical engineer Greig Payne explains: “Most customers want one-touch modes of operation so that a touch of a button on a screen, fob, remote control or tablet sets off a complex range of functions that in a conventional installation would require manually flicking numerous switches or breakers.

“We can set up any number of totally customisable modes of operation, depending on the customer’s needs.”

CZone simplifies installation of electrical systems by replacing complicated, cumbersome wiring to switch and fuse panels with robust interfaces and lightweight NMEA 2000 network cable. It also provides the end user a sophisticated solution by automating complicated electrical and electronic systems.

“CZone provides full circuit protection on output modules and can monitor anything, from tankage levels to engine room temperature by converting sensor data from analogue to digital. For instance, CZone can automatically turn on the engine room blower once the temperature inside reaches a pre-determined level, say 30°C,” says Greig.

“Significant weight savings can be expected through less cabling, no relays, greatly simplified controls, fewer switches and an unprecedented level of integration with leading electronics brands. CZone is compatible with the NMEA 2000 protocol so any electronic device that also conforms can be added to a CZone network.

“CZone is also future-proofed: it is infinitely expandable and users can add and configure new hardware as they go. Modules are designed to work together. They feature ‘distributed intelligence’ which means a replacement module added to the network will learn from the other modules.

“CZone helps to contribute towards fulfilling Riviera’s pledge to help our owners create ‘the ultimate boating experience’.”

The Volvo Ocean Race was won by the team from Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing. If you would like to read more on the Volvo Great Ocean Race, you can link direct to their website here >>