Edwards is back

Tracy Edwards is planning another all-female Jules Verne attempt, reports Ed Gorman

Wednesday March 21st 2001, Author: Ed Gorman, Location: United Kingdom
Tracy Edwards is hunting for backing for another Jules Verne attempt by an all-female crew. But this time the former Whitbread skipper and skipper of Royal & Sun Alliance will project-manage the campaign and leave the sailing to others.

Now 38 and with a 15-month-old baby girl, Mackenna, Edwards has had enough risk-taking for one lifetime and is happy to devote herself to raising the money and putting together another ambitious campaign. The plan this time is to be in a position to have a go at the 71-day Jules Verne record in early 2003.

Edwards says she hopes to charter or buy one of the maxi-cats from The Race or possibly commission a new boat, depending on what a future sponsor might want. The crew is likely to consist of almost all the sailors from the Royal & Sun Alliance campaign and will include British sailors Emma Richards, Miranda Merron, Emma Westmacott and Sam Davies, plus some top international sailors such as Michaela von Koskull of Finland, Helena Darvelid of Sweden and Adrienne Cahalan of Australia.

The drive among all these women to have another go at the Jules Verne is all about what happened three years ago in the Southern Ocean when Royal & Sun Alliance (then still in its ENZA format prior to lengthening by Tony Bullimore) dismasted 10 days from Cape Horn. At the time Edwards was only one day behind the record pace set by Olivier de Kersauson's Sport-Elec and a new record was very much on the cards.

"We were so close and it was so possible," said Edwards. "We knew that Olivier had all his good luck on the first half of his voyage and all his bad luck on the second half, whereas we'd had all our bad luck on the first half and we were still only a day behind. And looking at the weather, if we'd only just managed to get through that final storm, conditions to Cape Horn were looking really good for us."

Edwards believes two failures in the blocks on the running backstays on the way down the Atlantic must have fatigued the mast, even though the sudden shock to the rig on each occasion was taken by the Spectra safety strops. Whatever the causes, Edwards knows her crew was on the pace and she has no doubt that they can set a new mark and hold it, as the new generation of big multis begins its assault on the outright best time.

" I have such an experienced multihull crew now and they really do have the capability to go out there and break the record - we learnt that on the last project," she said. Having watched Grant Dalton and the crew of Club Med circle the globe in 62 days on the, allbeit bizarre, course in The Race, Edwards believes a time of 55-58 days on the Jules Verne is a realistic possibility.

In the meantime she has got to find the money, having failed to do so for a Race campaign. She says, however, that the recent upsurge in interest in British sailing in the wake of Ellen MacArthur's Vendee Globe, has created a very positive atmosphere and, so far, all the signs are good.

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