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O'Rourke secures last-minute VOR sponsorship

5th September 2008
O'Rourke secures last-minute VOR sponsorship
In any yacht race if the wind changes direction just about anything can
happen. The last few months have been like that for Ger O'Rourke,
chasing his dream of entering next month's Volvo Ocean Race. It's an
against-all-the-odds story, and that's even before before the race begins.

The Limerick sailor confounded pundits when news of the last-minute bid
broke in this column on May 30th but by July O'Rourke's bid was sinking
before it left the dock and lack of sponsorship was to blame.

 

The news this week that the Limerick sailor has secured sponsorship at the eleventh hour puts him back on course for his entry in sailing's most gruelling race round the world in 29 days time. An official announcement is due next week.

Many scoffed at his chances of making the line at all. O'Rourke's low cost
approach was dismissed as a backmarker and his bid was on the rocks within
months of its announcement. By late July he was ready to pull the plug on a
four million euro project because much-needed sponsorship vanished when
capital markets nose dived.

Now after a gap of 20 years since Ireland last had an entry, the news that
Delta Lloyd, a Dutch financial services provider, has backed him will
underpin his 39,000 mile voyage around the world. It also gives Ireland two
of the seven teams in the 2008/09 race.

The Galway backed Green Dragon team is already at the race start in Spain
making final preparations.

O’Rourke has been cast as underdog since he dared square up to the other
round-the-world campaigns, some spending as much as €40 million.

But from this position O'Rourke previously shot to sailing prominence in his
50-footer Chieftain, bringing home some of the biggest trophies in
world offshore sailing including a class win in the 2006 Sydney-Hobart, and
the overall win in last year's Fastnet race.

In April he bought the old ABN/Amro 1-winning boat from the 2005/06 race,
and spent the summer bringing it up to 2008 standard. The boat wiped the eye
of the rest of the fleet in that race, and O’Rourke was quick to realise
that, even after all the development work carried out by teams over the past
two years, it remained the design benchmark for all new designs entered in
the current race.

But having missed the Round Ireland race in July after a high-profile exit,
when the boat was holed in harbour, the campaign started to take on water
when it did not attract sponsorship in spite of substantial support from
McConnells Advertising.

The boat, now in Limerick docks completing a refit, has undergone costly
modifications to bring it up to the required VOR Version 2 rule, including
rewiring electronics, fairing and deck work, plus new engines and a modified
keel.

To his credit, substantial work has been completed from a standing start,
including the assembly of a professional crew who have agreed to put their
salaries into the campaign, resulting in what O’Rourke says is the
lowest-cost VOR project with a reasonable chance to make its mark.

O'Rourke will not comment on the sponsorship yesterday; he is, however,
scheduled to make an official announcement next Wednesday. Delta Lloyd is a
supporter of Dutch sailing and it is expected part of the deal will include
O'Rourke taking two Dutch sailors as part of his 11 crew.

O'Rourke is yet to complete the compulsory 2,000 mile qualification passage
and it’s expected this will be the delivery trip from Foynes to Alicante in
the next week.

His crew line-up includes Stu Wilso, a Kiwi veteran of the race with four
previous races under his belt who is understood to be the number one watch
leader. Another New Zealander Stu Molloy will be another watch-leader.
O'Rourke is also taking with him crew from his Chieftain campaign including
boat captain Mark Tighe, Edward O'Connor and Brian Heuston. The navigator
position is yet to be filled.

When O'Rourke crosses the line it will be a significant achievement in
itself. How will he fare against the might of the big entries? As any ocean
racer will tell you, at sea just about anything can happen.
Published in Editors Blog
Afloat.ie Team

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