The Global Challenge fleet arrived back in Ocean Village yesterday having completed their last training session before they set sail to circumnavigate the globe.
They spent three days at sea fine-tuning race sailing techniques, assigning roles for the race start and practising manoeuvres. With the start just two months away the crews seemed acutely aware that ambition will shortly become reality. As SAIC passed the Needles on their return to Southampton, John Wilkinson caught the eye of his skipper, Eero. "It was quite a moment, it was clear that we were both thinking the same thing - the next time we pass the Needles together, we will be setting out on a ten month race around the world."
The winds were generally light but Barclays Adventurer skipper, Stuart JACKSON, was happy with his crew's performance. "We tried to carry on the race culture from the Qualifying Sail. It is difficult to simulate racing conditions that demand total focus from the crew, but it went very well. We have been choosing Watch Leaders and ironing out any remaining problems. Now I'm looking forward to the start!"
The final training sail was hot on the heels of the qualifying sail, which took place two weeks ago and is best described as a dress rehearsal for the race itself. The complex communication logistics that will ensure the safety and smooth running of the Global Challenge 2004/5 were put to the test during seven days of sailing and systems testing.
The satellite communication link to the boats while at sea and onboard crew safety were simultaneously tested as the land based technical team instructed the crews to carry out a wide range of exercises and drills. Each team had different scenarios presented to them without warning to test their responses in emergency situations, including loss of steering, man overboard drills, medical exercises and taking charge of the yacht in the case of the skipper becoming incapacitated.
Cal TOMLINSON, Challenge Business' Sailing Operations Manager wanted to "throw as many curveballs as possible at the communications systems through a series of different exercises to make sure everything is working smoothly and efficiently."
Teams will now concentrate on land based team building and personal preparation before they meet up in September to prepare the yachts for departure.