Peter Harrison's GBR Challenge today announced that Neal McDonald is to leave the British America's Cup campaign, for personal reasons.
Neal, who was one of the initial group of 16 sailors signed by Peter Harrison and Ian Walker, has decided to do the Volvo Ocean Race, in order to spend more time with his wife, Lisa McDonald who is skipper of the female Nautor Challenge entry. Neal is to join the Assa Abloy team, competing in the same race.
McDonald, a member of the sailing team, has been responsible for the rig maintenance and development for the challenge. Over the last five months he has worked to get the ex Nippon rigs in shape for the team's training, in addition to having a large input in the design of the team's first new mast that is currently under construction in Southern Spars.
Harrison's Sailing Manager Ian Walker explained, "I'm as disappointed now as I was elated to have signed Neal in the first place. However, I fully understand his reasons."
"Neal has made an invaluable contribution to the challenge, particularly with his development of the new mast. Losing a sailor of Neal's calibre will always be a loss to any campaign, but he's already taught us much about sailing these boats and how to run a rig maintenance programme."
Walker also pointed out that there might be opportunities for McDonald in the final stages of the campaign. "The door is not shut on involvement in the future, if the circumstances are right for GBR Challenge and for Neal."
McDonald commented: "This has been a really tough decision for me as I've always wanted to represent Britain in the America's Cup. I'm good friends with many of the GBR Challenge team as well as respecting them as some of the best sailors there are. However, in an America's Cup campaign you need to be single minded and also have the support of your family and friends around you. This was not going to be the case for me, once Lisa secured her last minute sponsorship for the Volvo Ocean Race.
"The respect I have for the team is one of the reasons why I have made my decision, as I didn't believe that I'd be able to give the job the focus required to do myself or the team justice. I'd have been travelling to the other side of the world regularly and following developments in the Volvo Ocean Race.
"I believe in everything that GBR Challenge represents. Peter and Ian have been very supportive, and if I can help the campaign in the future then I will."
McDonald will remain with GBR Challenge until the end of the America's Cup Jubilee.