Entries down to six
Over the past three months, the harsh reality of securing offshore yacht racing sponsorship in a fragile and unpredictable financial environment has come sharply into focus for the teams in the double-handed, Class40 Global Ocean Race 2011-12. In the early summer, 19 teams were officially entered and this number has gradually been reduced to six confirmed entries for the 2011-12 circumnavigation.
As official organisers of Class40 round-the-world racing until 2016, 90% of the withdrawn entries have requested a slot on the start line of Josh Hall’s single-handed and double-handed Class40 Global Ocean Race 2013-14 allowing the teams to re-group and plan well-funded and competitive campaigns. While this determination by the skippers is encouraging, it highlights the immense struggle and effort that can often hamper teams.
Josh Hall, Race Director of the GOR, explains the circumstances facing the teams: “As very hands-on race organisers we have been assisting teams seeking sponsorship and putting their projects together as much as we possibly can during the last two years,” says Hall. “Class40 is very much an owner-driver class with the skippers generally seeking sponsorship only to cover the operational budgets of their campaign,” he continues. “Whilst this creates a highly-affordable and cost-effective sponsorship profile, the reality of many GOR teams not being able to secure sufficient funding at this late stage is a sign of just how tough the market is in these volatile and unpredictable economic times.”
For Hall, the impact of the financial climate has also touched the event’s overall funding: “We ourselves have not been able to secure a title sponsor for the event, so we fully understand the position our withdrawals have found themselves in,” confirms Hall. “We were naturally thrilled to have such a strong entry list just a few weeks ago, all bona fide projects that met our entry criteria, and we are of course disappointed that the fleet has been reduced at this stage, “ he comments. “However, we have an exceptionally talented group of international sailors setting-off in September, so we anticipate a highly competitive event. We are also delighted that most of the teams that have been forced to withdraw this time are targeting the GOR 2013-14.”
Tolo Frau, President of the GOR’s Commercial Division in Mallorca, has been working hard to garner corporate support for the event: “Despite the strong institutional support received from the current administration teams at Palma Town Hall, the Mallorca Island Council and the Balearic Islands Government, the lack of an effective commitment from the previous administration and the volatile financial situation have made it impossible to secure Balearic and Spanish corporate funding,” confirms Frau.
In the past weeks, three teams have withdrawn: while the French duo of Jacques Fournier (a former President of the Class40 Association) and Jean-Edouard Criquioche (former Class40 Treasurer) run a well-funded Class40 campaign supported by the Groupe Picoty corporation, their decision to withdraw was driven by personal reasons. However, the news that the all-girl, Anglo-German duo of Hannah Jenner and Anna-Maria Renken were forced to pull-out of the race with under 30 days to the start in Palma, Mallorca, followed by Michel Kleinjans and his team on Roaring Forty 2 typifies the obstacles facing offshore teams.
Late last week, Kleinjans announced that his Belgian-British GOR team of Ian Wittevrongel and David Thomson were withdrawing Roaring Forty 2 from the race. In the spring, the team’s new BT Boats Kiwi 40FC Class40 arrived in Belgium from New Zealand as deck cargo and the trio quickly completed the yacht’s commissioning, the AVS and 180° self-righting tests and completed the mandatory 2,000 mile GOR qualifying voyage. However, although the team’s technical preparations were going well, Kleinjans was unable to find the vital, final funding to ensure a competitive GOR campaign: “In a very depressed market, it has been impossible to raise any commitment from corporate institutions in Belgium to help with the campaign,” confirms the 47 year-old property developer and former Belgian Yachtsman of the Year.
While Kleinjans privately funded his winning campaign in the 2008-09 GOR’s single-handed division on his Open 40, Roaring Forty, a ‘Team Entry’ option in this year’s race and a new boat added considerable cost to the project. “Although we managed to raise the basic budget, the final contingency funds and a financial safety net for the campaign could not be found,” explains Kleinjans, who has been working hard on his GOR project since crossing the finish line of the 2008-09 edition.
Kleinjans and his team have already proved that Roaring Forty 2 is a devastatingly fast boat, leading the Class40 fleet for the majority of this year’s Rolex Fastnet Race on their first competitive outing together and the decision to withdraw from the GOR has been immensely difficult. “We have all worked so hard for our entry in what will be an outstanding round-the-world race and it was a very tough decision to tell Josh and his team that we cannot make the start line,” adds Kleinjans. “As for the future, I’m planning to do the 2013-14 GOR,” he confirms. “I hope to have recovered financially enough by then to be able to continue what I have been doing for a big part of my life: combining competitive ocean racing with a normal working career.”
Hannah Jenner and Anna-Maria Renken have worked hard for over a year to put their campaign together: “It has not been an easy decision for the team to make,” confirms the 31 year-old Jenner. “But after a difficult period where the team faced setbacks and delays, the time ran out for key sponsors to be a part of this edition of the race.” Launching into a 30,000 mile, nine-month circumnavigation on a restricted budget was not an option. “Rather than continue with a serious funding deficit, we’ve decided to re-think the campaign and work up a three year program with the ultimate aim being to make a serious mark in the Global Ocean Race 2013-14,” reveals Jenner. “We’d like to extend a huge thanks to all who have been involved with the project so far from suppliers to those who have given their time, advice and financial support,” she continues. “We’d also like to wish all the competitors and the race organizers of the GOR 2011-12 the very best of luck and hope that the race is the huge success it deserves to be.”
1. Sec. Hayai (NED) Nico Budel with team entry of Ruud van Rijsewijk, Frans Budel, Bas Bax-Kiburg, Erik van Vuuren. 2007 Akilaria Class40 NED44
2. Desafio Mallorca (NZL/SPA) Conrad Colman and Hugo Ramón. 2011 Akilaria RC2 Class40 GBR112
3. Nannini/Peggs (ITA/GBR) Marco Nannini and Paul Peggs. 2007 Akilaria Class40 GBR41
4. Phesheya-Racing (RSA) Nick Leggatt and Phillippa Hutton-Squire. 2006 Akilaria Class40 RSA23
5. Campagne de France (FRA/GBR) Halvard Mabire and Miranda Merron. 2011 Pogo 40S² FRA101
6. BSL (NZL) Ross Field and Campbell Field. 2008 Tyker40 Class40 NZL76