Spice Race postponed

Transatlantic race from Cowes to Grenada put back by a year

Sunday October 5th 2008, Author: Louay Habib, Location: United Kingdom
After meeting with Class 40 racers, both here and in Le Trinité, France over the weekend, the Royal Southampton Yacht Club and Spice Race promoter, Tony Lawson, have agreed to postpone the start of the 4321 mile race from the Solent to St Georges, Grenada, until November 2009.

Speaking from Race Headquarters in Surrey Tony Lawson said: "The decision to delay the race was a mutual one. Both the Royal Southampton and myself were committed to providing nothing less than a first class event. Whereas we had enough boats for an inaugural race we did not think there were sufficient entries to support the associated social, educational and charity programmes we had wanted for here and Grenada. It is a disappointment but our efforts to date have given us a great deal of information and we will build on this for next year."

RSYC Commodore Colin Lewis added, "While the club is disappointed we totally endorse the decision to postpone the race and look forward to continuing or association with this exciting project in the run up to next year".

Asked why the expected number of 10-15 boats had not been achieved Lawson commented: "For this sort of event the Spice Race always had a very optimistic lead time. The race was originally a response to a gap in the Class 40 calendar and the wish for me and a number of other owners to do something with our boats this winter rather than lay them up. Unfortunately, the deteriorating economic situation made it difficult for some of the early supporters to fully commit to the race in terms of both time and money. Some of the yachts proposed shipping back to meet other commitments here in Europe but the cost of freight from the West Indies escalated. Sadly, I think the general concensus among owners was that we had better stick closer to home and keep an eye on next year's summer programme and hope for more settled times.

Asked about the future of the race, Lawson added: "The emphasis will change. Whereas the event will still be open to all Class 40 racers and IRC yachts there will be a focus on fully crewed National Women's Teams. We hope to have teams from the U.K, France, Holland, America, Norway and Germany, all of whom are currently represented in the Class 40 fleet. We believe that this will be the first event of its type – an offshore race of classic proportions with women's teams battling for honours over the 4321 mile course. With a more generous lead time and showcasing women's offshore sailing, we feel that there is a better chance of sponsorship as well as providing the girls with the offshore experience they seek. On the bright side we have already been approached by companies wanting to get involved. Meanwhile, the Government of Grenada has changed and some of its key members are keen sailors. We hope to cement our relationship there. Camper & Nicholson's new marina will be further advanced with nearly all 350 berths completed. We will continue to work with them and our other existing partners.

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