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18 September 2005, 10:07 am
Premier Faces Biggest Challenge Yet
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Volvo Ocean Race 2005-2006

Premier Challenge not only had to wave goodbye to Australia yesterday as they headed for the start of the Volvo Ocean Race 2005-2006 in Vigo, Spain but also the majority of their professional crew who were left behind as a financial crisis throws the project into stormy waters.
The all Australian team will line up for the race start in November, but at this stage it is not certain that they will have the funds to complete the eight month campaign unless a new sponsor comes forward with a last-minute rescue package.

Grant WHARINGTON (AUS), Head of the Syndicate and the boat's skipper, was still upbeat that his crusade for the Fighting Finish trophy could be salvaged, though it would not be under the Premier Challenge banner. 'We are looking at a number of different options at the moment. There is no doubt we have the ability to create some impressive publicity, and it would be good if we can do something with it,' he said ahead of the 2,000 nautical mile qualifying sail from Port Philip to New Zealand.

Earlier he expressed his delight at the brand new Volvo Open 70 boat, which will be packed onto a ship upon arrival in New Zealand and ferried to Spain, but also his regret at losing his crew.

'We got our new mast in yesterday [Thursday] and the boat looks absolutely fantastic, however, today [Friday] is bitter-sweet. On one hand the yacht looks every inch of the high performance racer we expected, it's an absolute glamour, but on the other, today was the last day for our professional crew, and we will now continue with a much diluted team, due to lack of funds,' he explained. 'It is so frustrating as we have an awesome boat, and until today we had what we believe was the best, most cohesive crew, but not enough funding to realize our dream of winning the Volvo Ocean Race for Australia.'

Sailing Master Barney WALKER (AUS), a twice round the world ocean racing veteran, added, 'It's been a long haul, that's for sure, but it's all come together nicely and it's very hard to have to walk away now. I am proud of what we have achieved.'

Due to the extreme conditions these high octane Volvo Open 70 crews are likely to encounter as they race around the planet at full speed, it is not realistic to expect that the team can continue with limited funds and remain competitive.

WHARINGTON, who raced onboard Djuice Dragons in the previous race, continued in bullish mood, 'We have entered the Volvo Ocean Race 2005-2006, and we will go to the start and do what we can with the resources we have. We can only do what we can do and we are determined to make the best of it. On behalf of all syndicate members I would like to take this opportunity to thank every one of our many supporters thus far. In particular our designer Don JONES, our build partner ING Real Estate, our innovation partner the Victorian State Government and all of the crew who have worked so hard to make this happen. I cannot begin to tell you how grateful we are to all of them, and how determined we are to try and pull this off.'

Event Media. Image:© Event Media
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