Global Ocean Race qualifiers
In just under six months, the start gun for the doublehanded, round the world Class40 Global Ocean Race 2011-12 will be fired in Palma, Mallorca, and pre-race preparations for the 18 teams are rapidly picking up pace.
After 2,300 nautical miles of sailing and two weeks to the day after leaving the Caribbean, the Anglo-German duo of Hannah Jenner and Anna-Maria Renke, the only all-girl team signed up for the Global Ocean Race have arrived in the Azores aboard their chartered Owen Clarke Design Class40 40 Degrees in the final miles of their 2,000 mile qualifying sail from Guadeloupe,
In a brisk 30 knot breeze, the Anglo-German duo saw the island of Faial with its towering volcano and were met by a reception committee on a bouncing RIB as they dropped sails and motored in to the harbour at Horta. The co-skipper's first task was to find the harbour master and get him to sign the second part of the declaration papers. The first had been signed just before departure in Guadeloupe and now the paperwork is officially stamped, H&A Racing Ltd., has become the first team to have completed the mandatory qualifying sail.
"This was my 11th trans-Atlantic crossing but the first time I've done it as a double hander" said Jenner. "It's a big tick in the box and provides us with valuable experience to build on. We took our time to get comfortable with the boat and each other and now that the
qualifying is done, we can plan to push things harder from here on in."
For Renke, it was her first major ocean crossing and it was immediately clear for those watching the team arrive, that the challenge had not phased her: "It was all cool. I'm happy that we had arrived but a little sad that this part of our adventure is over" said the 30 year old German co-skipper. "And while the sailing was great, I'm much happier to know that we can work as a team - that was much more important for me. It shows that we can team up off-shore just as well as we can on-shore"
The team retired to the legendary Sports Bar, a home from home for all visiting sailors, for a long dreamt about rare steaks with a crisp salad, washed down with several beers. Then laundry, a clean of the boat, victualling and a chance to check out the island before continuing on towards the UK. The team expect to depart on Friday with the aim of arriving back in the Solent on Saturday, 8 April . Their Class 40 racing yacht '40 Degrees' will be based in Portsmouth on and a summer of further races is planned as they work up to the Global Ocean Race start in Mallorca on 25 September.
As Jenner and Renke were approaching Horta, so a second Class40 was leaving Florida, also bound for the remote, Portuguese outpost in the middle of the North Atlantic. Italian GOR co-skipper, Francesco Piva and three crew – Luca Zoccoli, Ramon Sant Hill and Isidoro Santececca – cast off on Monday afternoon and motored the BT Boats Kiwi 40FC Peráspera out of Port Everglades, Fort Lauderdale, made sail and pointed their bow northeast for the 2,700 mile voyage to Horta.
Francesco Piva - owner of Peráspera and Partner in BT Boats - and his three crew had been in Florida for just over a week, rendez-vousing with their Farr Yacht Design, Cookson Boats-built Class40 on Monday 21 March as she was refloated, fully-rigged, from her cradle on board a semi-submersible, Dockwise Yacht Transport ship following a 44-day voyage from Auckland, New Zealand. Busy preparing the boat, the team took time to go test sailing, completing a final sail on Sunday with Pat Shaughnessy, Chairman of Farr Yacht Design. On Monday, Piva took a short break from final preparations to update the GOR Race Organisation on progress: “It is really pretty busy right now with all the fine details and paperwork,” he reported from the dock in Fort Lauderdale. “We’re just sorting out Custom’s clearance and in a moment I’ll head over to the Harbourmaster’s office so he can sign-off our GOR qualifying departure declaration.”
Since the boat’s launch and mandatory GOR 180° inversion test in mid-December, Piva has been building his crew having chosen to take the GOR’s Team Entry option which allows a total of six crew for the entire circumnavigation with one crew member swapping at each stopover.
“After taking and passing all the Class40 tests, we will finally hit the ocean and assess all the Kiwi 40FC potentials,” he adds, clearly looking forward to the North Atlantic voyage. Aged 43, Piva began sailing in the late 198’s and has spent the past 12 years concentrating on doublehanded sailing with class wins in the doublehanded division of the Rolex Middle Sea Race in 2002 and 2009; a total of nine Roma per Dues with Class III wins in 2002 and 2003; the doublehanded Round Sardinia Race in 2009 and entries in the Giraglia Rolex Cup, the Barcolana and the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup in Sardinia. Most recently, Piva raced doublehanded in the Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland Race on the Open 35 Indy, although he was forced to retire 100 miles from the Shetland Islands.
For the Italian co-skipper, the choice of his GOR crew has been crucial: “One major benefit is that we have all known each other for many years,” he explains. “We have also sailed and raced together either double-handed or fully-crewed on all types of boats and in all sorts of different events,” continues Piva. “So, we already know each person’s skills, strengths, limits and character, which is a great advantage. The qualifying trip will now give us the opportunity to learn all about Peráspera and find out what she can really do!”
Piva’s three companions for the qualifying voyage have extensive sailing CVs. Luca Zoccoli, aged 42, brings a valuable mix of shorthanded sailing to the team. In 2007 he competed in the Matondo Congo–Route de l’Equateur sailing Class40 Espace Enfance. The same year he took fifth place in the Proto fleet of the Mini Fastnet with co-skipper Andrea Pendibene on Moonfleet and the following year he campaigned heavily with Moonfleet in the San Remo Mini Solo; the Gran Premio Mini 6.50 and the Save the Whales Mini 6.50. In 2009, Zoccoli swapped his Mini for the Ostar 35 In Derezione Ostinata e Contraria, taking seventh place in class on corrected time in the transatlantic OSTAR and last year he joined Piva for the Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland Race.
At 53 years-old, Isidoro Santececca is the senior member of the team and despite running his extremely popular and well-known, traditional Italian restaurant, Santececca Marcello, in central Rome, he has amassed an impressive doublehanded sailing CV winning the doublehanded division of the Middle Sea Race with Piva in 2002 and 2009; competing in the doublehanded Round Corsica and Round Sardinia Races in 2003 and 2009; racing double-handed in the Rome–Hammemet Race across the Mediterranean to Tunisia in 2009 and competing in nine editions of the doublehanded Roma per Due. The GOR qualifying voyage will be Santececca’s second visit to Horta having sailed doublehanded from the British Virgin Islands to the Azores in 2008. Santececca and Piva will also race the restaurateur’s Sun Fast 3200 Cimba in the 2011-12 Transquadra.
Since starting sailing in the late 1990s, 36 year-old Ramon Sant Hill mixed inshore and offshore racing, moving quickly from headsail trimmer to mainsheet trimmer, taking his Yacht Master Offshore exams in 2003 and skippering his first offshore race two years later. Since then, Hill has rarely stopped racing, continuing to mix inshore and offshore events including impressive results in the Middle Sea Race sailing with Piva in 2004, the Roma per Tutti and the 2006 ARC.
Following the qualifying voyage and on the completion of GOR paperwork with the Harbourmaster in Horta, Santececca and Hill will return to Italy, while Piva and Zoccoli sail doublehanded to the UK and the yacht’s base at Endeavour Quay, Gosport. The pre-GOR programme for Peráspera is busy and Piva and Zoccoli will join three other GOR boats in the Normandy Channel Race at the end of May, followed by the Rolex Fastnet Race in August.
For Piva, the voyage to Horta of around 18 days will be a chance to really sea trial his boat: “Many of the GOR competitors are third generation Class40 yachts with highly qualified skippers,” he confirms. “With humility, but great determination, we are ready to show the soundness of the Kiwi 40FC project and the qualities of our innovations. But, as always, the ocean will always have the last word.”