The prize is awarded annually to the Dutch solo sailor who has achieved something exceptional and remarkable at sea with the overall aim of stimulating interest in offshore, shorthanded sailing.
Attending the prize giving with his wife, Myrna, and two of his children, Frans and Jolanda, Budel and the other nominees spoke of their experiences and goals, but the 69 year-old Dutchman’s story - a tale of immense calm and superior seamanship in potentially lethal conditions – made Budel a short odds tip for the prize.
On 28 January, the Portimão Global Ocean Race 06:20GMT position poll was a cause for concern: Budel on his Open 40 Hayai, had dropped a further 126 miles behind fellow solo sailor, Michel Kleinjans, on Roaring Forty in the previous 24 hours and now trailed the four-boat fleet by 510 miles, becoming increasingly isolated in the Southern Ocean. The reason soon became clear when Budel contacted the Race Organisation to report that he had sustained keel damage and immediately Kleinjans was diverted to the location of Hayai.
Later the same day, conditions deteriorated for Budel as the lead keel bulb began working loose from the carbon keel fin and he activated the yacht’s EPIRB distress beacon at 15:45GMT. With a MAYDAY issued, MRCC Reunion began coordinating the rescue and two commercial ships, the Nord Kraft and the CSK Radiance, were diverted to Budel’s position, 240 miles NNE of the Crozet Islands.
Just under 48 hours after activating his EPIRB, Budel abandoned Hayai and climbed aboard the 170,000 tonne CSK Radiance at 11:45GMT on 30th December after an immaculately coordinated rescue operation.
For the Solo Challenge Award jury – including Leon Bart, multihull victor in the 2005 OSTAR, and Jan Berent Heukensfeldt Jansen, CEO of team ABN AMRO in the 2005-06 Volvo Ocean Race - the choice of Budel was unanimous, despite tough competition from the seasoned offshore sailors and 2009 OSTAR entrants, Bart Boosman and Maarten Russchen plus six other yachtsmen from the Dutch shorthanded arena. “There were nine other nominees for the award and it was impossible to tell how the jury would vote,” said a delighted Nico Budel, shortly after receiving the award. “It was a big, big surprise to win and we had a great party.”
Within hours of his rescue in December, Budel was already planning to rejoin the Portimão Global Ocean Race and the hunt for a new boat started while the rescue ship steamed towards Cape Town. Eight days before the Dutch solo sailor issued his MAYDAY, one of the double-handed boats in the Portimão Global Ocean Race - Class 40, Kazimir Partners of the South African brothers, Lenjohn and Peter van der Wel - was forced to return to Cape Town with mast damage and for Budel, the option of continuing the race in the double-handed class on Kazimir Partners became a possibility. Shortly after transferring by helicopter from the rescue ship to Cape Town, Budel and Lenjohn van der Wel sealed the deal with a handshake and Kazimir Partners will rejoin the race in Brazil.
“We will start in Ilhabella and race in Leg 4 and Leg 5, completing the race from Brazil, to Charleston and to Portugal,” confirms Budel. “We will probably set off for Brazil from Cape Town in early April, but I haven’t decided exactly on the date,” he continues.
Meanwhile, Budel is planning a reunion with the Portimão Global Ocean Race fleet in New Zealand. “We’ll arrive on 9th February in Wellington and we will stay there until the boys start Leg 3 to Brazil on the 21st.”