Offshore Challenges update

On Ellen MacArthur's forthcoming Route du Rhum and Jules Verne Trophy attempt

Saturday September 14th 2002, Author: Mark Turner, Location: United Kingdom
The dismasting of Orange earlier this week raised certain questions about Team Kingfisher's programme for a Jules Verne record attempt this winter - this being the boat they were due to purchase for Ellen MacArthur's winter assault on the all-out round the world record. It can be confirmed today that an agreement has been made which permits early delivery of the 110 foot catamaran to Team Kingfisher, and the provision of a new mast that will be built by Profil/JMV, Cherbourg within a timescale that will maintain the original project programme.

"We would not continue with this record attempt with the catamaran if we felt it had been compromised by the dismasting. In the few days since the accident, we have been able to make the necessary agreements with both the current owners of the boat, and the mast manufacturers, that allow us to retain our original programme of refit, re-brand and training for the Jules Verne attempt. This will include a new mast, new sails and other performance enhancements," commented Mark Turner, Project Director.

Before this Ellen MacArthur will face her toughest solo challenge since the Vendée Globe when she crosses the start line of the Route du Rhum off St Malo, France on 9 November. MacArthur competed in the last Route du Rhum in 1998 on board Pete Goss' Open 50. She stunned the sailing world by finishing first in her class ahead of many of the competing Open 60 boats. It was the start of Kingfisher plc's support of MacArthur and the start of her campaign to compete in the 2000 Vendée Globe. The 2002 Route du Rhum race brings MacArthur full circle - this will be her last solo race on board the famous blue and yellow Kingfisher boat before starting the next phase of the 5 year racing plan announced in January this year on board the maxi catamaran Kingfisher II in an attempt to break the non-stop round the world Jules Verne record.

The Route du Rhum is a trans-Atlantic solo race from St Malo to Guadaloupe but in terms of competition it is one of the toughest. The Vendée Globe may be the 'marathon' of solo sailing but the Route du Rhum is the '100 metres'... (but maybe like running 50 of them in a row!). A full-on sprint across the Atlantic - the sailors have no respite, sleep less than on a round the world race and any mistake or failure on the boat is catastrophic, there is no comeback.

MacArthur has already begun her solo training programme taking Kingfisher off for a few days testing and preparation for the modifications to come. At Offshore Challenges' base in Cowes, Isle of Wight, Kingfisher has undergone some major modifications. A new keel has been added with a modified structure to the fin, a new bulb shape although the weight of keel remains unchanged. The keel hydraulic system has also been updated to enhance performance. The original keel had over 80,000 miles on the clock and it was time for a replacement ( Kingfisher has sailed the equivalent distance of three times around the world since her launch in Feb 2000). The rig has been taken off, stripped, rebuilt and replacement parts added where needed. With the support of Performance Partner Marlow, all the ropes have been replaced - many of them still in place since Vendée Globe and a season of crewed racing last year.

The satellite communications system on board has been changed from a Satcom B to a Satcom F - lighter, less power hungry and more efficient internet access. Kingfisher is one of the first to switch to Satcom F.

Next week work will be carried out to the hull to repair some minor damage caused by a RIB during a hectic Cowes Week!

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