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3 November 2005, 03:22 pm
Keeping It Simple... And Surprising!
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Transat Jacques Vabre 2005
Le Havre, France

Walter ANTUNES' (BRA) Open 60 Monohull Galileo is the new boat on the block in the Paul Vatine Basin, and it has raised a few eyebrows amongst the Transat Jacques Vabre competitors already. Designed by a South African, Angelo LAVRANOS, and built by ANTUNES himself in Brazil, this campaign has seemingly come out of the blue for the Europeans.
Launched in 2005, Galileo is a work of simplicity. ANTUNES is modest about his creation, but he has reason to be proud of his work too, and even skippers like Jean-Pierre DICK (FRA) and Jean LE CAM (FRA) have let their curiosity get the better of them and had a look around.

'It was a personal choice to end up with an open cockpit with twin steering wheels, I wanted to have a boat which could adapt to crewed races, but even though it's new and quite powerful, it's my first boat so it was important not to complicate the design,' commented the Brazilian. 'Everything is very simple, and she's very reliable all round boat, happy in fresh breeze, with a safe rig and good engineering. There's lots of room for improvement but once I have enough racing experience I can then modify things.'

Indeed, there is no paintwork on the inside, so the cabin is still carbon black and minimal. There are no creature comforts at all, not even a cushion on the rectangular navigation seat covering the engine, no sign of a galley which a Frenchman would have appreciated, and outside the helming position is unprotected from the elements by the low flat cockpit.

If the boat suggests that its owner is a professional offshore sailor then appearances are deceptive. ANTUNES is first and foremost a family man, with a wife and two growing children, and they take precedent in his life. He is a Telecoms contractor, and until three years ago ran his own company until he sold it to pursue his personal ambitions. But those ambitions do not imply a career in offshore yacht racing. 'I'm not a professional sailor, I'm already 37 years old, I've been married for ten years but it feels like I met my wife last year, and my youngest daughter is eight years old - I don't want to miss out on my kids growing up. So the hardest thing for me is being away, and having to deliver the boat here from Brazil and then staying in France for the build up to the race has been really tough on my family life as we're all very close. I don't go sailing to get away from it all, maybe like some of the French skippers!'

In fact, ANTUNES is happy to admit that despite coming onto the scene with a new and powerful Open 60, his intentions are not to stay in the sport indefinitely. 'If I wanted to take a long term view on my sailing, I would have taken the Open 50 route first, like some of the guys in that class, to work up to an Open 60 campaign. I've come in straight away with the 60 because I only intend to do one circuit but no more than that. Sure I want to do this, it's a personal challenge and there's a great feeling to accomplishing something like this, plus it's an addictive sport, but I can put it in perspective. I have been approached to open the boatyard up again, and I'm definitely thinking about that for the future.'

Although ANTUNES knows he is very much the 'rookie', his longest offshore race was the Cape to Rio, he promises that he will pull out all the stops in the Transat Jacques Vabre. 'What's great is that there are no expectations or pressure on us from other people like sponsors. We're here to compete, we need the experience, so we'll sail hard and either way I'm sure we'll surprise everyone! I don't know what's next, and I will need a sponsor if I continue, or I'll have to sell the boat, so we're gonna race like it's our last race!'

ANTUNES's accomplice in this race, 32 year old Raphael COLDEFY (FRA), was actually one of the boat builders, who then went on the delivery to France and so was a natural choice as co-skipper. They get along well and are both in synch with the boat, and if it was not for their own lack of racing experience, ANTUNES reckons that the boat could finish in the top five. However, they have set their sights on the middle of the fleet, and are expecting to battle alongside the likes of Skandia and Pro-Form, older boats, but with crack teams. 'It's funny that there is no real offshore sailing culture in Brazil, the Brazilian Volvo entry has helped this image, but Torben GRAEL only crossed the Equator for the first time when they delivered the boat to Europe! I've been to two Transat Jacques Vabre finishes in Brazil but it's nothing compared to France. It's my first time over here and I'm just amazed at how big the sport is. Salvador is my home port, it's where the boat will be kept after the finish, so I'm really proud to be the first Brazilian to enter this race and to be going home when I start! I'm sure I'll cry when I see the shore, sorry, I'm supposed to be the tough guy, but yes, after three weeks racing, it's a real plus to look forward to arriving home, I hope it will be a great welcome!'

For all the news on the Transat Jacques Vabre CLICK HERE.

Mary Ambler (As Amended By ISAF). Image, Galileo in action during the Rolex Fastnet Race:© Daniel Forster/Rolex
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