Grant WHARINGTON, Barney WALKER and Matt ALLEN have announced the formation of their Australian Volvo Ocean Racing Syndicate - Premier Challenge - for entry into the Volvo Ocean Race starting in 2005.
Australian, Glenn BOURKE, CEO of the Volvo Ocean Race says, "I am delighted that Grant and his team have put together this Australian challenge for the Volvo Ocean Race. The declaration of Premier Challenge is the first of many teams in the final stages of preparations for announcing their entry into the next Volvo Ocean Race. The introduction of the new VO70 has created plenty of interest and our team of designers are spiralling down into the final details which will be released in the form of the VO70 rule on September 8th this year."
Bourke's comments are supported by Graeme Adam, Public Affairs Manager for Volvo Car Australia. Adam coordinated the activities of the different Australian-based Volvo importers during the last Volvo Ocean Race.
"The Volvo Ocean Race is the biggest global sporting event Volvo has ever been involved in. For Volvo Car Australia, Volvo Truck Australia, Eastern Engine (Volvo Penta) and Volvo Construction Equipment, the 2001-2002 event generated enormous media exposure, benefiting the event and the individual syndicates,"
says Adam. "As Australians, we are all excited at the prospect of an Australian entry and wish Premier Challenge every success."
All three of the syndicate constituents are highly prominent yachtsmen and both Wharington and Walker have been involved in previous Volvo races. Not only is there an abundance of yachting experience shared between these men, there is undisputed success in the business arena.
"I believe our joining forces has created a formidable team, offering an exceptional mix of offshore yacht racing experience, sponsorship management and financial management"
says Wharington, Syndicate Head and currently in the final stages of construction of his new 98 foot canting keel Maxi.
"Barney Walker is a professional sailor of international standing, a veteran of two previous around the world races, currently campaigning in the Star class, for an Olympic medal in 2004 - a consummate yachtsman and the perfect choice for our syndicate Sailing Master."
Of course, the level of investment required to run a successful Volvo Ocean Race campaign is not insubstantial. In this regard it seems the Premier Challenge is well placed, with the inclusion of businessman Matt Allen, in charge of Business and Financial Management.
"Matt's business and financial acumen is well documented. His involvement should send out a strong message that we believe this is not just about yacht racing, but about a sponsorship investment of an infinitely broader nature, about creating a return on investment for our partners, as well as winning the race,"
As owner and skipper of the next "Wild Thing" Wharington brings an added dimension to the Premier Challenge. "In conjunction with my new Maxi, Premier Challenge can offer a truly seamless three year 'on the water' campaign, something we believe will make the difference, not only enhancing sponsor value but also giving us a clear competitive advantage. It is well known that the winner of the last race, Illbruck, had more time on the water than any other syndicate, they were absolutely ready to race. Premier Challenge has all the ingredients to be in a similar position. By the start of the Volvo Ocean Race, the crew will have trained together for over two years and will have experienced some of the toughest conditions that we are likely to encounter during the Volvo Ocean Race by competing in such events as the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race."
Of course, Premier Challenge still has to seek out one or more partners in order to achieve their ambitions. "We are well aware that the current economic climate is far from perfect,"
adds Allen in conclusion. "However, armed with some exceptionally impressive media statistics and a plethora of strong business arguments for joining in, together with our own Premier Challenge Syndicate strengths we are confident of success."