Bullimore gets a last minute sponsor and becomes Team Legato
Bullimore's game plan was to lengthen his boat - adding 12 ft to her bows to bring her up to 102 ft overall - and then take on the newer boats on a proven platform. However, for Bullimore to really hammer home his advantage he needed a sponsor and quickly. After attracting the attention of half the world's population by surviving five days in an upturned hull in the Southern Ocean, he might be forgiven for thinking that that would be the easy bit.
Unfortunately it has been a huge struggle and Bullimore has had to stretch his own finances way beyond the limit to pay for the boat (£400,000) and then carry out the work under Irens' supervision. Finally, at the eleventh hour with The Race due to start in just seven weeks time, he has found a sponsor in Legato Systems (an American software concern) to help underwrite the project and get on the water. But Bullimore is way behind schedule
and his advantage over the newer boats has all but slipped away.
This week Team Legato is still in a temporary shed made of scaffolding and plastic sheeting in Bristol. The hull work is finished and the installation of new engines is being completed. In a week's time the new 109 ft carbon
wingmast from Carbospars is due to arrive and it will then be installed. Team Legato will then be lifted into the water, then lifted out again to get her over Princess Street Bridge and then she will be on her way.
Like all the late entrants into The Race, Team Legato's schedule is almost ridiculously ambitious in the run-up. Bullimore says he will sail her to Falmouth or Brixham, 'chuck a few boxes of food on' and then immediately
set off on the 2,500-mile qualifier with a loop round the Azores. After that he will head for Gibraltar and then Monaco for the Prologue. Why not skip The Race, I asked at the press launch this week, and just get the boat
ready for a serious Jules Verne attempt in the New Year?
But Bullimore has his heart set on the event and is going to do his level best to be on the startline on New Year's Eve. 'My dream and all my thoughts have been to compete in The Race and getting back racing against
other boats. The Race offers a platform to compete against half a dozen of the biggest boats in the world and the Jules Verne will probably come afterwards anyway,' he said.
Bullimore will sail with a crew of ten altogether, including himself, and is hoping to announce the names shortly. However he said in addition to Britons, they will include sailors from France, Holland, the US, Australia and the Ukraine.
Irens has seen his original 80 ft design, which won the Monaco to New York race as Formula TAG in 1985, shortened to 75 ft, then extended to 92 ft and now stretched again to 102 ft. The aim this time is to give the bows more bouyancy to help stop the boat burying her nose or even pitch-poling at high speed in the Southern Ocean. Irens believes the extra length and the power unleashed by broadening, deepening and lengthening the bows plus lifting the forward crossbeam, will increase Team Legato's average speed in big conditions from 18 to 22 knots.
'She's going to be very competitive,' Irens said. 'Structurally she is as sound now as she was when first launched under TAG colours. These latest hull modifications are designed to increase average speed at both ends of the wind range. The nine percent extra sail area carried in the new rig will give her the power to keep moving in light conditions like the Doldrums. And thanks to the latest carbon technology, this new rig will be 40% lighter than her original alloy spars. Over the next two years, I can see the circumnavigation record falling as low as 65 days and, given a fair share of good fortune, this boat will be quite capable of breaking it by that much.'
The question is, should Bullimore go for The Race or should he take his time?