Richards and Merron are go
The money - up to £2million over three years - is coming from Emma and Miranda's existing sponsor Pindar. The Scarborough-based printing company has backed the pair's previous projects, beginning with the 1999 Transat Jacques Vabre in which they won their class sailing Pete Goss's Open 50 - the former Aqua Quorum.
The new Pindar will begin building in the Autumn, probably in a British yard. The boat will be entered by Emma in next year's single-handed Route du Rhum and then the 2003 two-handed Transat Jacques Vabre. At present the plan is for Miranda to then race it round the world in the 2004 Vendee Globe. In between these events, the boat will also be entered in fully-crewed grand prix and used for record attempts.
The backing from Pindar, which will sit alongside support from several co-sponsors, is just reward for Richards and Merron who have produced a string of impressive results, including Emma's win in class 2 in last summer's Europe 1 Star single-handed transatlantic race (which was somewhat eclipsed at the time by Ellen MacArthur's victory in class 1).
Andrew Pindar, chairman of GA Pindar & Son, said he was delighted to continue a relationship which has benefitted both parties. "When we met Emma two years ago, we backed her then when she was on her last legs, looking for sponsorship for the Transat Jacques Vabre. Little did we know then that she could sail the way she does. We've ennoyed it and the last two years have been fantastic for us," he said.
He added that he is backing Miranda for the Vendee, though he believes the Route du Rhum, in which Merron will sail a separate chartered Open 60, will be an important test. "She's got amazing skills and huge brain power. She hasn't done any single-handed sailing up to now, so it will be interesting to see how she copes on her own," Pindar said.
Richards told madforsailng that the design for the new 60 will not only be a step forward from Kingfisher but will also incorporate new features to help the boat in its fully-crewed campaigns. Although Richards will compete in the Route du Rhum, the Vendee does not appeal to her. "I don't feel ready for that challenge," she said. "I don't enjoy single-handed racing as such - I enjoy the racing side of it but I don't like the solitary aspect and not being able to share the good times as well as the bad times," she said.
Nevertheless she is delighted to have secured the new boat. "I'd never have dreamt to be at this stage already," she said. "It's a great opportunity and I'm so glad Pindar have stuck with us. They are very pleased with what they've achieved."
Merron said her plans now are to try and get as much sailing in Open 60s as possible. One option for her is Catherine Chabaud's Marc Lombard-designed Whirlpool which is now on the market for £500,000. In the meantime she and Richards are hoping to sail in this summer's EDS Atlantic Challenge, possibly with Mike Golding on Team Group 4. "My main aim is to
sail an Open 60 as much as possible - the Vendee is an awfully long way," she said.