11th hour C-Class campaign

Helena Darvelid / www.sailrocket.com
John Downey's Team Sentient Blue has acquired the 2007 ICCCC winner, Alpha
The most 11th hour entry to the International C-Class Catamaran Championship has been that of John Downey’s Team Sentient Blue. A Tornado sailor of old and a two time UK National Champion, John Downey’s first experience of the Little America’s Cup was when he and fellow Tornado sailor Keith Bliss and their boat, The Hinge, challenged (unsuccessfully) Australian Lindsay Cunningham’s defender, The Edge in 1987. “That was my first go at a C-Class, which was a bit of a disaster, but I have never managed to cure myself of the addiction since then,” admits Downey, who professionally is an airline pilot with Etihad Airlines. For the last eight years he’s been based in Abu Dhabi, where he originally went to help start up Etihad’s 777 fleet but he is now the Chief Pilot for their Dreamliner program. His claim to fame is that he was previously a Concorde pilot. In the recent era of the ICCCC he has been involved on the periphery of Norman Wijker’s Invictus Challenge, but since the last event in Newport in 2010 he has been working with Spanish designer/builder and A-Class sailor, Sito Avilés, on a kind of mini C-Class, they are calling an A+. “Basically we have used an A-Class’ hull tooling, although heavily modified, with 10ft beam, so it is a scale model of a C-Class. We are building our own wing for that, because originally we couldn’t afford to do our own C-Class campaign,” says Downey. The boat is currently under construction in Murcia in the south of Spain, where Avilés is based. Over the course of the last few weeks, their involvement in the ICCCC here in Falmouth has taken a dramatic change. “We were just going to come here and observe and then about three weeks ago, via various routes, I discovered that Alpha