As much of the western world recovered from holiday excess, and prepared for New Year's celebrations, Team Kingfisher headed out to sea yesterday on a cold and windy December day to start sailing trials on the 110 foot mega-cat.
Leaving from their base in Lorient, North West France, the 14 strong crew have been battling strong headwinds for the past 24 hours, making their way initially towards Ireland. They plan to put themselves, and the boat, through a series of tests and manoeuvres before returning to base on the 31st.
Ellen will then head to the UK (probably for the last time before the JV departure) and join fellow team member Neal McDonald at the London Boat Show on 2 January, before returning to Lorient once more on the 3rd - ready for the boat to depart on a 5 day offshore training session that same day.
A final crew change is also announced today. Canadian Kevin McMeel will replace Nick Moloney in the Assistant Navigator spot. After his victory in Class II of the Route du Rhum, and some post-race reflection, Nick has decided to focus his energy in the coming months on finding the funding for his Vendée Globe campaign, and starting his training programme for the 2004 solo event in which he hopes to follow in Ellen's footsteps. His replacement, Kevin McMeel has many thousands of miles of offshore racing experience, and recently worked on the Assa Abbloy Volvo campaign pre-start, alongside Mark Rudiger. He also happens to be a practicing surgeon - hopefully a skill not to be called on during the Jules Verne, but nonetheless one that would certainly be very useful if the situation arose... Many skippers have required their crew to have their appendix out before a race such as this...since the rules (or the record pace) do not permit a stop.
When KINGFISHER2 sails again on 3 January 2003, it will be with the full and final crew for the Jules Verne.
Whilst the job list remains long, the team have been working hard in recent weeks and KINGFISHER2 should be ready to go in to 'STANDBY MODE' in the middle of January. Meanwhile, Olivier de Kersauson on GERONIMO awaits a weather window in Brest to make his departure, and be the first to head off to attempt to break this mightiest of records.