Late on Wednesday afternoon, Nico Budel, the sixth entry in the double-handed, Class40 Global Ocean Race 2011-12 (GOR), sailed his 2007 Akilaria Class40, Sec. Hayai, into the Marina de Mallorca in Palma and moored stern-to at the GOR’s Race Village on the Muelle de las Golondrinas quay.
The 72 year-old yachtsman and his co-skipper, 56 year-old Ruud van Rijsewijk, took two weeks to sail from the yacht’s homeport of Scheveningen on the Dutch coast, through the Straits of Gibraltar to Palma, Mallorca, completing a voyage that would have tested lesser sailors to the limit. Shortly after leaving Holland, Budel and Van Rijsewijk were battered by gales that swept through Northern Europe as they entered the English Channel, forcing the duo to find shelter in Eastbourne on the English South Coast for two days. Passing Cape Finisterre, Sec. Hayai developed engine problems and Budel pulled into Sines on the Portuguese coast, bought a 20 horsepower outboard, welded some steel tubing into an outboard mounting bracket, fitted the sturdy structure to his Class40’s transom and set-off for the Straits of Gibraltar within 24 hours.
Entering the Mediterranean, Sec. Hayai was met by headwinds and in the approach to Mallorca, the wind dropped to a shifty five knots for the final day at sea. However, there were enjoyable highlights to the delivery voyage: 'Just after Cape Finisterre we had a 40 knot following breeze down the coast of Portugal,' recalled the irrepressible Budel shortly after docking. 'It was the most beautiful night of sailing and the speedo hit 22 knots a couple of times.' During the stop in Sines, the duo located the engine problem and ordered spares to be delivered to Palma and work started early on their first morning ashore in Mallorca. 'Fortunately, the problem is inside the boat, so we don’t have to haul the boat out to fix it,' Budel confirmed on Thursday.
Budel has taken the GOR’s ‘Team Entry’ option and will swap co-skippers during the stopovers in Cape Town, South Africa; Wellington, New Zealand; Punta del Este, Uruguay and Charleston, USA. The highly-experienced, 72 year-old yachtsmen will be sharing the 30,000 mile circumnavigation with two of his sons for the Southern Ocean legs with Frans Budel racing Leg 2 and Bas Bax-Kiburg joining the boat for Leg 3. His delivery co-skipper, Ruud van Rijsewijk, will start the race with Budel for Leg 1 and Erik van Vuuren will join Nico and Sec. Hayai for the final two Atlantic Ocean legs.
While Sec. Hayai will now undergo safety scrutineering by the GOR’s Co-Race Director, Sylvie Viant, the majority of the five other entries have already been passed as ready-to-race, but will receive a visit from the Secretary of the Class40 Association, Muriel Robyn, to check each boat’s sail inventory, ensure that all paperwork is complete and that all Class40 Association Membership fees are up to date. However, with three days remaining to the start at 14:00 local time (12:00 GMT) on Sunday, some of the teams are still working hard. The New Zealand – Spanish duo of Conrad Colman and Hugo Ramon landed corporate funding in the past week and are busy with a team from Weflex fitting – according to Ramon – ‘very secret systems’ to their newly-christened Akilaria RC2, Cessna Citation. Moored next to Colman and Ramon, Halvard Mabire and Miranda Merron’s immaculate Pogo40S² Campagne de France is in the very final stages of preparation having spent the night across the Marina de Mallorca at the STP Shipyard for a bottom scrub.
The New Zealand father-and-son team of Ross and Campbell Field ventured out for a final test sail in light airs on Wednesday with their Verdier-designed Class40 BSL. 'We’ve sent one sail back to the loft for an adjustment and we’re waiting for a couple of packages to arrive,' reports Campbell Field. 'But that’s about all that’s left to do.' With both of the team’s wives in Palma, the Fields are enjoying the free time. Indeed, Campbell and Tracy Field’s one year-old son, Fraser, took his first, faltering steps in the GOR Race Village. 'It’s a bit of a worry that his first steps were in a beer tent,' admits the proud father.
Phesheya-Racing has been the busiest boat sailing out in Palma Bay and the South African crew of Nick Leggatt and Phillippa Hutton-Squire are now fully prepared for the start. 'We’re only waiting for an Xtra Link satellite phone and a final sail,' explains Hutton-Squire. The Phesheya-Racing team’s GOR Race Partners, bluQube, are also in town and are waiting for the headsail to arrive with anticipation: 'It’s a bright red, not-so-secret A6 with bluQube branding,' adds Leggatt. Meanwhile, at the western end of the dock, the Italian-British team of Marco Nannini and Paul Peggs are in high spirits despite starting the race without a title sponsor. Having officially renamed their Akilaria Class40 Financial Crisis, the duo is determined to complete the circumnavigation and will continue to hunt for funding. 'We need about €50,000 Euros to keep the campaign running,' reports Nannini, who has never lost his sense of humour despite the project’s tight budget.
With great ingenuity Nannini and Peggs have set up a donation page on their website to help cover the costs afloat and ashore. For example, donating £15 via the website will buy a round of beers for Nannini and Peggs during the stopovers and a £50 pound donation will help buy freeze dried food for their offshore supplies. 'There are certainly thousands of more worthy causes that you can support,' says Nannini. 'We are, after all, two lads following a dream to race around the world on a boat. But, if you enjoy following us and want to give us a pat on the shoulder, you can help us with some luxuries at the stopovers that will make all the difference after 30-40 days at sea eating freeze dried food.'
The GOR Race Organisation has deliberately kept the schedule of mandatory appointments for the six teams to a minimum during their final days ashore ahead of Leg 1. On Thursday night, the teams, their families, sponsors and supporters are invited to a Gala party at the GOR Race Village and the final briefing for the teams takes place on Friday afternoon. For Josh Hall, Race Director of the GOR the final few days are vitally important. 'It’s quite common that unforeseen issues with a boat will suddenly appear in the final countdown to the start,' Hall explains. 'Leaving the crews to spend time with their boats and with their friends and families is, I think, important,' he continues. 'Although all the teams appear relaxed and composed, there are going to be a few nerves jangling and some stress building up to the start of what is possibly the biggest adventure of their lives for many of our skippers.'