Brasil 1, the first Brazilian boat to compete in the Volvo Ocean Race was launched into the waters of the Atlantic Ocean yesterday, 26 June. The boat was christened the previous Thursday at the Glória Marina, in Rio de Janeiro by Ingrid Schmidt GRAEL, the mother of skipper Torben GRAEL.
Ingrid served as the boat's godmother and broke a bottle of champagne on the bow, during a ceremony packed with crew members and many official representatives. The Minister of Industry, Development and Foreign Trade, Luiz Fernando FURLAN, represented President Luiz Inácio Lula da SILVA at the event. Also present were the Minister of Sports, Agnelo QUEIROZ, Rio de Janeiro\'s Governor Rosinha GAROTINHO, state secretaries and representatives of various levels of government, sports organizations, and the armed forces.
'The christening is a very special event, especially for the Brasil 1, which represents an enormous undertaking in the world of Brazilian sports. It has been a lot of hard work since we starting building the boat, and it will certainly be a lot more work, with the first tests in the water and the first sailing trials,'
said skipper Torben GRAEL.
The boat will be undergoing its first test next week, after the hydraulic systems have been adjusted. 'The first sailing trials will take place in Guanabara Bay. In early July we will go to Ilhabela's Sailing Week to take part in the Alcatrazes por Boreste regatta and then in the round-the-island sail. From a technical point of view, we have chosen a more conservative boat. We believe that it will give us the desired stability,'
said the Grael. 'This project is a real challenge, starting with making it financially viable, then building the boat in Brazil, and now with the preparations and soon the actual race.'
Alan ADLER, the director of the Brasil 1 project, made sure he celebrated the success of this undertaking. 'Brazil has now joined a select group of countries that have the technology to build first-class boats. The Brasil 1 is a unique project and required a lot of enthusiasm, risk-taking, and stubbornness to accomplish. We are not just a soccer country, but also a sailing country, which brings us a lot of joy, every four years at the Olympics.'
Ingrid GRAEL was very touched by the invitation to christen the boat, the most modern one ever built in Brazil, and one that will sail over 57,000 kilometers in the race. 'I was very happy to have been chosen. It is a great honor to be the godmother of a boat of the caliber of the Brasil 1,'
said Ingrid GRAEL, upon arriving at the pier of the Glória Marina after crossing over by boat from her hometown of Niteroi. 'It was quick and convenient to arrive on Axel's boat. I grew up sailing and am used to it.'
The Grael family celebrated the christening on their own yacht, sailing back to Niterói. 'Cold beer and Scandinavian snacks were plentiful on board,'
said the mother of Brasil 1's skipper Torben, and his brother Lars. She is the proud owner of seven Olympic medals. 'Nobody in Brazil has as many Olympic medals as I have, not even Torben who has five,'
she jokes. Upon her son's request, Ingrid came to the ceremony all dressed in white. 'He is very superstitious and I have come dressed in white to bring good luck to the boat and the round-the-world sailing project.'
The Minister of Sports, Angelo QUEIROZ says that the Brasil 1 is proof of Brazil's maturity and competence. 'To be able to pull off such a huge undertaking, one that requires technology as well as money, show that Brazilian sports and the country itself have reached a certain maturity. It proves that our country has the competency to organize big events and to develop large-scale projects.'
Not only the Brazilians are proud of this initiative. Brasil 1's Australian navigator Adrienne CAHALAN, the only woman so far confirmed to take part in the 2005/2006 Volvo Ocean Race, underlines the feelings of nationalism fostered by this project. 'Brasil 1 is one of the most challenging projects that I have come across. It goes beyond the narrow-minded view of just being the first one to arrive. It involves a lot more, a nationalistic feeling, not just a commercial project. The boat belongs to Brazil, and not to the sponsors or the crew.'
Though used to building sailing boats, two members of the team that made the Brasil 1 happen had the opportunity on Thursday to set eyes on the ocean for the very first time. Twenty-three year old Francisco MARINHO and 30-year old José RODRIGUES were part of Marco LANDI's team that, in the ML Boats shipyard in Indaiatuba (in the interior of the state of São Paulo), built the first Brazilian boat to compete in the round-the-world Volvo Ocean Race.
The two are from Ceará, in the north of Brazil, and have been in Indaiatuba for eight months. 'I am from a small town close to Juazeiro, called Açaré. I came to São Paulo to work. I never thought that I\'d be building boats,' explained Marinho. 'I am very proud to be a part of this. The boat is very beautiful. In Ceará I have never seen anything like this,' said Rodrigues, who is from a small town called Itaitinga.
The two colleagues traveled by bus to Rio de Janeiro. The trip was organized by Marco LANDI, who brought the whole team of about twenty people to the christening of the boat in the Glória Marina. Rodrigues and Marinho saw the ocean for the first time at Ipanema beach. 'It was just like I pictured it,'
confirmed Rodrigues. 'It is really neat to see the ocean, but the trip was tiring,'
Landi was chosen as builder of the boat by skipper Torben GRAEL and Alan ADLER, the director of the Brasil 1 project. He worked together with Horácio CARABELLI, the technical coordinator. In Indaiatuba, up to 25 people worked on the boat simultaneously, logging more than 35,000 hours.
The Brasil 1 is sponsored by VIVO, Motorola, QUALCOMM, ThyssenKrupp, NIVEA Sun and the Brazilian Government through Apex (the organization that promotes Brazilian exports), The Ministry of Industry, Development and Foreign Trade, and the Ministry of Tourism, with special support by Varig Airlines.
The crew has been confirmed with Torben GRAEL as skipper, Brazilian sailors Marcelo FERREIRA, Kiko PELLICANO, João SIGNORINI, André FONSECA and reserve Eduardo PENIDO, Australian Adrienne CAHALAN, the only woman who so far signed up for the Volvo Ocean Race, Spaniard Roberto Chuny BERMUDEZ, New Zealanders Stuart WILSON and Andy MEIKLEJOHN, and Norwegian Knut FROSTAD.