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Underdog O'Rourke needs lifeline

25th July 2008
Underdog O'Rourke needs lifeline
Ireland’s second entry into October’s Volvo Ocean Race (VOR) is sinking
before it leaves the dock, and a lack of sponsorship is to blame according
to its skipper, 2007 Fastnet race winner Ger O’Rourke.

The Limerick sailor confounded pundits when news of the last-minute bid
broke in this column on May 30th.

After a gap of twenty years since Ireland last had an entry, the news thatthe tiny west coast sailing community was fielding two of the seven teams inthe 2008/9 race - at an estimated cost of 16 million Euro - was not only the biggest investment ever seen in Irish sailing but a global sports story to boot.

O’Rourke was immediately cast as underdog when he dared to square up to
round the world campaigns spending as much as 40 million Euro.

Although Ireland's Green Dragon team expected to meet stiff competition in
its nine-month voyage round the world, it certainly did not expect it from
its own back yard.

And now it appears it may not. In a round robin email sent yesterday
O’Rourke admits the project needs a ‘lifeline’. He is two million Euro short
on a four million budget and he cannot proceed on his own.

The future of the campaign will be made in a week’s time and O'Rourke
concludes that last ditch efforts for sponsorship will be made up to next
Friday, but warns that the state of the capital markets means ‘its not
looking good’.

The 2006 Sydney-Hobart class winner bought the old ABN/AMRO1 winning boat from the 2005/6 race and spent the last two months 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 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 BMW 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.

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 that 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.

Meanwhile, Ireland’s Green Dragon team continue its preparations towards
October's start. Skipper Ian Walker has outlined what he is looking for in
the Chinese crew member to join the crew.

‘We would like to see Chinese sailors who are competing at this summer’s
Olympics applying, along with former members of the China Team AC
syndicate’.

The Green Dragons have been gaining international credibility as they
complete their crew line-up with some big names from ocean racing.

Walker does not preclude any sailor who is not already established from
applying for the position if they feel they have what it takes, but they
must be over 90kgs and be able to speak English. Up to five Chinese crew may
be carried.

The team leave at the end of next month for Alicante. They have given the
nod to a place on the podium which is a big promise from a brand new boat
and a brand new crew. There is a huge amount of work still to be done and as
O'Rourke will testify, even after all the careful preparation, it will not
be the going out of port, but the coming in, that determines the success of
this voyage.
Published in Editors Blog
Afloat.ie Team

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