by Oliver Dewar
In the Global Ocean Race, there are just a few days remaining until the start of the final leg and the double-handed Class40 teams are now within sight of completing the circumnavigation following eight months of racing and four stopovers in the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Oceans.
Marco Nannini receives a trophy from his sponsor, the Mustang Club of Italy, in Charleston
At 10:30 local time (14:30 GMT) on Saturday 19 May, the four remaining Class40s from the original fleet of six boats will cross the start line in Charleston, South Carolina, and set off on the 3,600-mile leg to the Leg 5 finish line in Les Sables d’Olonne, France.
While the teams still racing have delivered some thrilling racing and exceptional seamanship throughout the GOR, the skippers have also been focussed on running the finances of their round-the-world campaigns against a backdrop of a grim, global financial climate where corporate sponsorship is elusive forcing some ingenious fundraising and considerable personal sacrifice.
Three of the original GOR teams had high-profile corporate support: the overall race leader, Conrad Colman with Class40 Cessna Citation has had continued support during the race and the two teams that retired early in the Pacific Ocean during Leg 3, Buckley Systems and Campagne de France, both benefited from corporate funding. However, the remaining three boats – Nick Leggatt and Phillippa Hutton-Squire’s Phesheya-Racing; Nico Budel’s Sec. Hayai and Marcoi Nannini’s Financial Crisis have campaigned via a combination of private backing and part-sponsorship without the support of a title sponsor.
On Sunday, a prime example of imaginative and inventive sponsorship took place at the GOR’s base in the Charleston Harbor Resort and Marina with the arrival of 45 classic and modern Ford Mustang cars in support of Marco Nannini’s GOR campaign. The Charleston Mustang meeting was the fourth gathering of American muscle cars during the race and follows similar rendezvous in the GOR stopovers in Cape Town, South Africa; Wellington, New Zealand and Punta del Este, Uruguay, and attracted cars from the local Lowcountry Mustang Club; the Savannah Mustang Club from the neighbouring state of Georgia; the Wildhorses South Carolina club and Carolina Mustang Club from Myrtle Beach.
Most notably, the President of the Mustang Club of Italy, Salvo Mirabella – who engineered the connection between powerful cars and round-the-world race yachts – was in town with his son Alessandro. As the pristine cars - ranging from an exquisite 1969 Boss 429 and a ’69 Fastback to a modern, super-powerful, Shelby GT500 – rolled into the Charleston Harbor Resort and Marina, Marco Nannini explained the link between Ford Mustang and his Class40 Financial Crisis campaign: 'Salvo and I had been talking about doing something together for quite a long time, even in earlier races,' says the Italian-Slovak skipper, 'but the opportunity never came about.'
However, a round-the-world yacht race provided the necessary inertia. 'When I entered the Global Ocean Race, Salvo suggested that I become ambassador for the Mustang Club of Italy and organise a gathering in every stopover and it has been a fantastic experience,' continues Nannini. 'This is the last stopover and it’s great that many of the Mustang owners have driven several hours to be with us,' he adds. 'They’ve been following the race and were very keen to come here,' commented Nannini as the American car enthusiasts filed along the pontoons in the GOR’s race base. 'We’re going to take them to the boats and show them the Class40s which are, I guess, the yacht racing version of a Mustang.'
For the GOR’s Race Director, Josh Hall, the drive, tenacity and ingenuity of the teams is impressive: 'The global economic crash has had an impact on ourselves and all the teams, both sponsored and unsponsored,' says Hall. 'The very fact that our competitors will shortly complete the circumnavigation is indicative of their drive and commitment to fulfil their dreams,' he adds. 'The relationship between Marco’s project and the Mustang Club of Italy is a prime example of sponsorship development and of just how inclusive racing around the world can be,' Hall believes. 'Mustang owners worldwide have been able to enjoy following Marco’s exploits and also visit him and his boat in the stopovers,' he continues. 'Equally, it has been a great way for our skippers to meet local people and to see their amazing cars close-up.'
Global Ocean Race website