Volvo Ocean Race Legends Regatta - Refitted and ready to go, the immaculate Charles Jourdan is heading to Alicante this November to race against others in the Volvo Ocean Race Legends, the first official regatta and reunion.
We were sailing at thirteen knots, so all I could do was turn the wheel. Our nose got past the whale, but not our side...
'We are very excited about coming to Alicante,' says Peter Olsson, boat captain and owner’s representative. 'We have had her refitted, starting with replacing the sails, and she will be in first-class condition when we arrive Alicante. We plan to race in her original Charles Jourdan livery,' he adds.
Head-to-head with Charles Jourdan will be the maxi Rothmans, who also raced against her in The Whitbread 1989-90. Like Charles Jourdan, Rothmans is also in immaculate condition. Joining them are the classic Swan 57 Berge Viking from 1981-82, the much-loved Copernicus from 1973 and Great Britain II, who in 1973-74 was the fast yacht around the world. Now known as Whitbread Heritage, she raced in the first five races under four different names.
Charles Jourdan was the sixth maxi yacht to finish the 1989-90 Whitbread from a fleet of 23 starters, but she came close to not finishing at all after a collision with a whale on leg three.
'I was steering when I saw it dive,' remembers her French skipper Alain Gabbay, who will be reunited with the boat later this year. 'The next time I saw it was when it came up, fifteen meters ahead of me. We were sailing at thirteen knots, so all I could do was turn the wheel. Our nose got past the whale, but not our side.'
Although the whale escaped unscathed, the collision punched a hole 10 feet long and three feet wide in the hull of the boat. 'You could see the sea through our hull,' Gabbay recalls. He told his crew to prepare to abandon ship.
'It was a very big crash and I thought it was possible we might sink. I thought it best for everybody to be ready to leave the boat, but once the excitement passed, I went below deck a second time to inspect the damage. At that point I decided we could keep the boat floating.'
This escapade resulted in a number of interesting headlines in the world’s press including: 'Enough to Make Him Blubber' and 'Whitbread Skipper Has His Own Personal Jonah'.
After the completion of her circumnavigation, the boat was bought by two-time Whitbread competitor, Finland’s Ludde Ingvall. She was refurbished and became very competitive, winning several high profile races including the Fastnet Race, The Round Gotland Race and Sydney to Hobart Race. She was bought by a Swedish family in 2000, refitted again, and has since then won several Nordic ocean races under the name Royal Blue. www.volvooceanrace.com