News Corporation announce Volvo Ocean Race entry
It's a deadly serious project with a two-boat programme - but perhaps the most significant thing for British sailing is the appointment of a UK skipper, Jez Fanstone. Fanstone was aboard Silk Cut in the 1997-98 Whitbread, along with one of his watch captains in this new project, another Brit - Neal McDonald. Neal is currently aboard Club Med for The Race, and heading for two Southern Ocean summers on the trot. The project is being run by Ross Field Yachting - Field was the skipper of the 1993-94 Whitbread winner, Yamaha, as well as being a watch captain aboard the all-conquering Steinlager in 1989-90.
Lachlan Murdoch, News Corporation's Deputy Chief Operating Officer, commented, "The Volvo Ocean Race represents the pinnacle of competition yachting. I have complete confidence in Field's ability to assemble a first-rate team and world-class yacht for the race. Fanstone is an experienced yachtsman with qualities needed to skipper a boat in the Volvo Ocean Race." And Murdoch should know, he was aboard Larry Ellison's maxi, Sayonara, on the storm-hit 1998 Hobart.
Bruce Farr has been appointed the designer, and the two boats will be built at Cooksons in Auckland, New Zealand, with the launch scheduled for April 2001. The syndicate are already sailing down in Auckland, on Dalton's Merit Cup from the 1997-98 race, crew training and preparing for a Sydney-Hobart entry this year. The Hobart will be part of the Sydney to Auckland leg, just a year later. They will stay in Auckland, until relocating to England after completing sea trials of the new boats.
The rumour mill has been churning over the existence of this programme for some time, but its formal confirmation will surely come as a relief to Volvo. The practical deadlines for putting a project together are fast approaching, and there are still only a handful of fully declared and funded entries. The participation of a major media operation like News Corp ought to reassure those potential sponsors still wavering on the sidelines.