Nautor boys announced
Grant Dalton has taken a new approach when it comes to choosing his crew on Amer Sports One for the Volvo Ocean Race. While away racing the maxi catamaran Club Med around the world, he entrusted crew selection to the first man he appointed to the syndicate, Bouwe Bekking.
Bekking sailed with Dalton on the second Southern Ocean leg in the 1997-98 event and most of his recent racing has been as helmsman and tactician on the tough fleet racing circuit.
The result, says Dalton, is a fresh approach for his Volvo Ocean Race crew. "We set out to create a strong afterguard to give us tactical strength. There are nine legs and four of them are short, and each has equal points. We must be able to go to the start of every leg, the shorter ones especially, knowing that our afterguard could win a world keelboat championship around the buoys. If I had any doubts about that, I would have the wrong afterguard."
Bouwe approached the people he knew - top people on the circuit who could bring a range of talents and skills to a Volvo campaign.
"We do not lack round the world experience," say Dalton. "This is my sixth, navigator Roger Nilson has been involved in six, Bouwe has done 2½ and tactician Dee Smith has done a few legs. What we have gained are some talented people who know about boat-on-boat racing and how to make a boat go fast.
"Bouwe has brought together people who really want to do the race and that's reflected every day. I haven't heard even one complaint about the food, the accommodation or the hours they have to work ... it's a struggle to get them to go home at night and they usually come to work on their days off."
Grant Dalton talks about his crew:
Bouwe Bekking: "I have appointed Bouwe co-skipper in recognition of the fact that he had an important role in getting the syndicate rolling, as well as being a very good yachtsman. He brings aggressive boat-on-boat racing experience to the team - skills we will really need on the shorter legs when it's likely we will have several boats in sight for the entire leg. He also has what I call 'speed ability' the knack of being able to sail a boat as fast as conditions will allow for hours on end. When he sailed the Whitbread leg with me he distinguished himself with his hard-driving, controlled approach."
Roger Nilson: "Roger is as much a fixture on this event as I am. We have often sailed against one another, but in the 1999 Fastnet we sailed together on the old Merit Cup boat. When you start working with Roger it comes as no surprise that he has survived so long at the top as a navigator. We have a mutual respect and, as inevitably happens on this race the navigator becomes the skipper's counsellor; I'm sure I'll get sound advice. Roger really knows his weather. He takes a cool, analytical approach to his job, which is very reassuring. He's also an experienced Whitbread skipper and has also run a campaign."
Dee Smith: "A world-renowned tactician with an impressive sailing CV over many years. He adds great strength to the afterguard. Dee sailed a couple of legs of the last Whitbread on Chessie Racing and was skipper on at least one leg. He showed his worth to the Nautor Challenge campaign when we sailed the Giraglia race. He will be involved with Roger on short-course navigation and boat-on-boat tactics.
Chris Nicholson: "Chris has an amazing record in dinghies. He's a legend and we're expecting big things from him on a keeler. He has been Australian yachtsman of the year twice, 49er world champion three times, a member of the Australian Olympic sailing squad and a finalist in the Sperry world sailor of the year. We heard on the grapevine that he was interested in making the switch and I'm sure he will make a successful transition to our sort of ocean racing."
Keith Kilpatrick: "Keith wasn't known to me at all, but I'm glad I listened to Bouwe's recommendation. He's a good man to have around - a tower of strength. He's sailed eight transpacific races, sailed on the winning boat twice in the Cape Town to Rio race ( Morning Glory and Zephyrus) and many, many other regattas all over the world. He can turn his hand to most jobs on board and he will do a fair amount of helming on Amer Sports One."
Stefano Rizzi and Claudio Celon: "I have to bracket these two. They're both Italians and both were trimmers on Prada at the 1999-2000 America's Cup, where they swept the entire challengers aside. They're good, very good specialist trimmers and more importantly they are content to concentrate and trim for an entire watch. Stefano sailed with me on Club Med and I was impressed and he recommended his Prada team-mate."
Jeff Brock: "Jeff's one of those guys who's good around a boat - and he can sail too. Every Volvo boat needs one or two. He's the sort of person who earns my respect and confidence very quickly and I know I can leave him to get on with his job. He's also a great bowman, quick and nimble who doesn't make mistakes. Jeff started in dinghies and went on to become a professional keel boat sailor with most of the world's major regattas on his CV."
Peter Pendleton: "Pete's our mechanical man. He's helped build the boats and has been involved in the design and installation of on-board systems. He can fix them all - rebuild them from the ground up if that's what's necessary. He's a very useful man to have on board, able to turn his hand to boat building, rigging, deck systems, the diesel engines, water ballast system as well as the electrical and hydraulic systems. Believe it or not, he has still found time to become a very good yachtie!"
Pepe Ribez: "Pepe has been involved in the Nautor Challenge since January and he got into the sailing crew through his sheer hard work and dedication to the job. He's always here on his day off and he's an all-round good guy. His sailing CV makes interesting reading. He's done just about everything, from hands-on building boats to managing builds, to working for the Spanish Navy. Somewhere in amongst all this he found the time to become a skilled yachtsman and navigator."
Phil Airey: "The only other New Zealander on board and the man with one of the most critical jobs in the team - sail coordinator. With, Katie Pettibone, he's running the sail programme for both boats. We were fortunate to get Phil from the Newscorp syndicate. Phil's got the Nautor Challenge sail programme well under control and it's much further ahead than I thought it could be at this stage of our preparation. Phil started his sailing in keelers and then went into dinghies and skiffs. He did the round Australia race and quite a bit of offshore since."