American Vendee entrant
Bruce Schwab (above), the only American sailor in the Open 60 ocean racing circuit, has officially announced his entry in the 2004/2005 Vendee Globe race. "No American has ever officially finished this event. Not only do I want to be the first American to finish it, but the goal is to be on the podium,” says Schwab, who earlier this year finished
The Vendee Globe is the epitome of extreme endurance competition, being a solo, non-stop around the world race without assistance. The quadrennial event’s next start is on 7 November 2004 from Les Sables d'Olonne. First raced in 1989, the Vendee is considered to be the most gruelling test of solo sailing skill in an around the world race for two simple, brutal reasons: there is no stopping and there is no help allowed from outside the boat.
Ocean Planet will be the only American Open 60 on the start line and a departure from the other Open 60 designs in several ways. One example is the boat’s rotating unstayed mast. " Ocean Planet is already the first racing sailboat, single-handed or crewed, to complete an around the world race with an unstayed mast," maintains Schwab. "Frankly many thought it wouldn’t survive the race. But we proved them wrong. Our unstayed mast is nearly as light as a conventional one, and has a significantly lower center of gravity. It may seem radical, but it’s just one of the reasons she’s extremely reliable, durable and easy to handle which, as you can imagine, is a very big deal in a solo around the world race."
Ocean Planet will be in Portland, Maine, over the winter to finish the upgrades for next autumn’s race. "Some of our developments will be hidden, but for the most part the project will be open for public viewing. We’ll be indoors at our new base at Portland Yacht Service all winter and will be launching our education program there. This will be a great place to bring everyone in to see our boat, and share what it takes to sail nonstop around the world."
Funding for Ocean Planet has come mostly from donations to The Made in America Foundation, Schwab’s non-profit organisation, but a Title sponsor and donations are still needed. "Preparing for the Vendee is a serious business," explains Schwab.
David Halliwill, a long-time supporter of the campaign and a Friend of Ocean Planet, helped form Every Ocean Sports to help take the funding efforts to another level. "We’ve put together a three pronged media and partner strategy to maximise US and global visibility for our sponsors. We’re partnering with SportsByline.com a worldwide sports radio network, working with the producers of a US public television documentary (KCSM), and teaming with a unique global educational program, Reach The World ( www.reachtheworld.org). This combination will deliver to millions a great story and a fantastic learning experience. It’s a compelling package that will allow Bruce and team to concentrate on getting the boat ready to win," says Halliwill.
Schwab hasn’t forgotten how he got this far: "Without the supporters of The Made in America Foundation, Ocean Planet would not be in the water today."
Among those supporters have been close friends of Ocean Planet like Kevin and Shauna Flanigan of Portland, Oregon. Flanigan says, "I'm utterly passionate about the mission Bruce is on with Ocean Planet. I'm a sailor and I love racing, but what's so rewarding for us in supporting Bruce is his fundamental vision for our sport. Races like the Vendee Globe push design techniques, new technology and old fashioned tactical approaches to their limit. Not only that, his seminars are inspirational and the educational programs that his team is building for kids will have an important positive impact."