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50 foot sailors Speak






At 09:00 UTC this morning, a press conference was held onboard the race organisation’s hospitality vessel, the square-rigged schooner, Swan Fan Makkum. All ten skippers competing in the 50ft monohull and multihull fleet attended the meeting, as did a large number of journalists from the international press keen to take advantage of the one occasion when these busy skippers will gather en-masse.

During the conference American skippers Rich Wilson (Great American II) and Canada’s Mike Birch (Nootka) – both competing on almost identical, Nigel Irens designed trimarans – described how their individual projects differ dramatically in all other respects. Birch, who finished second in the 1976 edition of the race on trimaran The Third Turtle, indicated a lack of comfort with the modern communications available to today’s racing yachtsman and reminisced over the earlier race during an era when satellite technology was limited to space programmes and nuclear weapons systems. Fifty-four year old Wilson, by contrast, has fully embraced advances in technology and throughout the race the skipper will be in contact with a number of American educational projects vis his SitesAlive! website while also contributing to a string of US newspapers.

Eric Bruneel, French skipper of Trilogic, is racing the newest of the 50ft multihull fleet – a Joubert-Nivelt/Marc Lombard design launched only last year. Bruneel admits that his yacht has possibly the shortest mast in the fleet but makes no apologies. Expanding on the subject, Bruneel explained that the spar was manufactured when the 2001 Route du Rhum, single-handed race was in progress and, alarmed by the dramatic casualty rate, commented: “Every time another trimaran capsized we cut a metre off the mast!”

Crêpes Whaou! is one of the hotly-tipped 50ft trimarans and her highly experienced, versatile skipper Franck-Yves Escoffier will push the boat as hard as he can to achieve a good result. This will be Escoffier’s second Transat and although he will compete on Crêpes Whaou! fully-crewed in the Quebec-St. Malo race and return the yacht to France, this race will be his final, solo race on a yacht he knows well: “She does not like light conditions and I need strong winds to make her fly.”

In the 50ft monohull fleet two polar opposite approaches to The Transat became evident during the press conference. French skipper Jacques Bouchacourt rescued his yacht Okami from abandonment in a boatyard in 1999 discovering that the previous owner had run out of funds and commitment shortly after the boat’s keel was laid in 1994. Entirely self-funded, Bouchacourt completed the boat’s build himself and, armed with a brand-new set of Elveström sails, declared: “I will race the best race I can and when I finish, if there is someone to meet me…it will be good!” Racing against Bouchacourt in Open 50 Wells Fargo-American Pioneer, Joe Harris, a resident of Boston, has no such fears over a quiet reception at the finish. With a well-funded and superbly organised racing project, the American’s main concern is his lack of experience in solo, transatlantic racing: “I’ve competed in a number of Newport-Bermuda races, but these are a milk-run compared to The Transat.” With over 25,000 miles of offshore experience, Harris will be an Open 50 to watch.

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This entry was posted on Friday, May 28th, 2004 at 10:49 am and is filed under Main Stories. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

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