The Luckiest Sailor in the World?

Is Tony Bullimore the luckiest man in sailing? It will take another 10,000 miles to find out.

When four boats left Doha, Qatar on February 5, racing around the world for prize money in the Oryx Quest, Bullimore’s catamaran Daedalus was the odd duck of the fleet. The boat was once-fast, along about 13 years and umpteen name changes ago, when it was known as ENZA. It’s still fast, but not in present company, and if it was here to race there had to be reasons, such as: 1) Appearance money had made it possible, so if you’re Tony Bullimore, why not keep your hand (and name) in the game? 2) If you’re the tortoise to three hares, there’s always the chance that one of them could break, and you’d be in the thing to the tune of $200,000 in third-place prize money.

That door opened early on, as Olivier De Kersausan’s trimaran, Geronimo, developed cracks in the forward crossbeam, stopped in Fremantle, Australia for repairs, restarted, and then withdrew when the main structure began to delaminate.

Then Cheyenne—Steve Fossett’s around-the-world record holder prior to Orange II’s brilliant finish on Tuesday in a time of 50 days, 16 hours at an average speed of 22.2 knots—lost its rig north of the Falklands after rounding Cape Horn last Tuesday. Fossett, who was not aboard (he was off setting a round the world flying record) always knew that his record would fall. Setting it was the point. It’s a sad thing to lose the mast and be out of the Oryx, but there were no injuries, and now Bullimore is in the hunt for $300,000 in second-place money, if he can just keep the machinery going.

It makes me grin to imagine him crawling into his bunk and trying so hard not to jinx himself by thinking about, maybe, Doha 2006 breaking and opening the door to first place and a million bucks.

In Britain, Bullimore is well-known as a campaigner in shorthanded races. Sailors in the USA are most likely to remember him as the chap who spent five days trapped in a capsized Open 60, Exide Challenger, in the Southern Ocean during the 1997 Vendee Globe. The Australian navy eventually came knocking on his hull and took him home.

Daedalus, originally built for Mike Birch as Tag, became ENZA for the 1993 around-the-world record voyage of Robin Knox-Johnston and Peter Blake. In the dim mists of 12 years ago they set out to sail around the world in less than 80 days and win a thing called the Jules Verne Trophy. They did the first 500-mile day ever and came home winners in a time of 74 days, 22 hours. The old girl’s got life in her yet, but she’s been running 3,000+ miles behind Doha 2006, which is pretty much where she was expected to be. Except that now she’s in second.

Doha 2006, named to advertise the Asian Games coming next year to the emirate of Qatar, on the Persian Gulf, was built in 2000 as Grant Dalton’s Club Med and became the winner of The Race, the only previous circumnavigation race for crewed catamarans. Skipper Brian Thompson has crewed on Cheyenne with Fossett, and he co-skippered with Tracy Edwards when Doha 2006 was Maiden II. (One thing you notice about professionalism and prize money, it makes for a lot of name changes.) It was Edwards who put together this event, sponsored by a bank, HSBC, and the state of Qatar, which is going about the business of reinventing itself as a sports capital. Here’s how the start of this particular sporting event looked, as viewed from the press boat.

SAIL’s West Coast Editor went to Doha for the Oryx start and was astounded at the pace of construction, most of it with a distinctly regional flavor. For example, this office high rise (below) incorporating traditional architectural elements. And yes, if you’re counting, there are two construction cranes in the picture, which is par for the course.

More at Oryx Quest—Kimball Livingston

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