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19 December 2003, 09:27 am
Truly an International Race
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Rolex Sydney Hobart

Yachts and crews from pretty much every corner of the planet have competed during the long history of the race. This year, though, on one yacht at least, the spirit of international cooperation will be truly tested.
There will be sailors from six nations crewing the Volvo 60

Formula One Sailing is a UK charter company with a twist. It runs a fleet of five Farr 65s, which compete in the major northern hemisphere ocean races, sailed by crews who pay big bucks for the experience. Down under, the company will be sailing the former Innovation Kvaerner for the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race.

She will race with a couple of Aussies with Volvo 60 experience, and a crew from Britain, Italy, Holland, Germany and Switzerland.

The secretary-general of this sailing UN is Denise Caffari. "It's a real challenge in crew management," she says. "We have people with very different temperaments.

"We all met each other for the first time on the weekend (December13/14) and first up we have been trying to get an idea of every individual's strengths, and weaknesses as well, so that we can cover those gaps for each other.

"We all want to sail the boat as fast as we can and be competitive, but at the end of the day the most important thing is that everyone has enjoyed themselves."

They have all done some ocean racing in the northern hemisphere but none on this side of the equator. "This is one of their 'tick box races'. The TransAtlantic, Fastnet and Hobart," says Caffari. But those ticks aren't cheap. A crew position costs 6000 pounds, plus airfares.

Interestingly, almost as many women as men have taken up the challenge, with a ratio around 60/40.

Caffari believes that it has helped that there is a female skipper, and the increasingly high profile of a number of British and European women sailors has helped too.

The visitors have given themselves two weeks to get used to the boat and each other, and will spend as much time out on the water as they can between now and Boxing Day.

Denise has one of those dream jobs, managing the company's Farr 65 fleet, taking them over to Bermuda this year for the regattas. But she was determined that she was going to skipper come December.

"Last year we tried this for the first time with a slightly smaller yacht and a handpicked crew of our clients. When they got back to the UK they had all had such a good time I was adamant I would get a go this time. Last year was an experiment but now it's guaranteed that it will become an annual event for us.

"We already have clients on the wish list for 2004."
Event Media (As Amended By ISAF News Editor)
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