Q: Damien, it's a while now since you've won the Barcelona World Race - what's been going on for you since then?
The most immediate project is that I have started working with the Green Dragon team which is an Irish entry for the Volvo Ocean Race. Aside from that, we are also looking further on down the line. We've been looking at putting together an Extreme 40 campaign and weve signed up two sponsors for that 3 Ireland and Spinnaker Pro.
3 Ireland is a broad band, mobile telephone company in Ireland and Spinnaker Pro is a marketing company based in Ireland and the United States so its great to start off my own campaign and hopefully we can keep that moving along in the back ground while the Volvo Ocean Race is going on.
Otherwise theres quite a few other things going on for instance theres a new marina being built in Knightstown, Valentia Island which is very close to where I am from, I saw the early development of that project and met with the development company down there to discuss how they plan to market the new marina and we are potentially looking at getting some races to come to Valentia Island which is a great natural deep water port, so thats a little project closer to home. I also plan to take a little time off to be with the family.
The last time I worked for an Irish campaign I think was in 1995 for the Admirals Cup so its great to be not only involved in an Irish Campaign but at this high level. This is the first Irish Campaign to come into the sailing arena at this level, or at least since the Whitbread Race 20 years ago with NCB, the Irish entry.
The likes of Justin Slatery, Ian Moore from Ireland , Neil Macdonald who was skipper of Ericsson and Assa Abbloy in the last two versions of the Volvo Ocean Race is onboard as well and is a huge bonus to the team and then theres Tom Braidwood, Anthony Merrington and a long list of very good sailors so hopefully this is going to be a team to reckon with.
We are hopefully in the reliability corner, I think we have a really strong boat and a reliable boat, if we can finish in the top three or close to the top three every leg then we have a good chance of winning overall.
Southern Spars rig, Richel Pugh have done really well with the design, this being the first time that they have designed a Volvo boat, North Sails and so on, so theres been a lot of standard decisions without trying to re-invent the wheel.
We just have to concentrate on getting the basic things right and making sure we dont miss out on the little things that could also be important and keep our eyes open to what everyone else is doing.
Since the boat arrived in Gosport we spent a month there in the first phase I would say, putting the boat together. It came off the ship with the hull coming from China, the rig from New Zealand, the keel coming from the United States. it all fitted together really well and a week later we were sailing so that was great.
Obviously theres a lot of work that comes with anything like this because every single part of the boat is custom made which creates a huge amount of work compared to those parts that just come off the shelf and are applied in a very specific order so theres a lot of lead time in getting the actual machine ready.
Then the next phase I suppose was when we went to Ireland, we spent a month and a half to two months training out of Cork and then we did our two thousand mile qualifier in the West Atlantic. That was a fantastic opportunity for us being based out of Ireland because its not only the home of the project, it also gave us access to the North Atlantic which provides great sailing the minute you step outside the harbor.
That was a huge bonus to us and we put some serious miles on the boat and we underlined the fact that we think we have a reliable boat and thats probably going to be one of the most key things of this race.
Q: youve done the VOR several times now. What is your main personal motivation to do it again this time?
A: theres two motivations for me to do this Volvo Ocean race for a third time, Im really hoping thats its going to be third time lucky because I have been involved with two previous campaigns: Tyco and Errickson. Two fantastic campaigns and I learnt a lot. We got close to the podium at various stages but the overall top polling place in the Volvo is still outstanding for me so thats an obvious goal.
The very nature of what we do takes us overseas and I have been based away from Ireland now for more than 20 years, be it that Id come back and do some sailing or races on a fairly regular basis but this is the first time we have been able to get ourselves an entry into a sailing event at this level with an Irish Campaign. That is very important to me and I know a lot of the other Irish guys on the campaign, whether they are on the boat or shore side, administration or logistical side are very excited and very motivated by this kind of thing. It's contagious, its a really good feeling around the camp.
Q: this is also your second around the world race in less than a year. How do you cope with this as a young father?
A: Well I supposed this is a slightly different event because the Barcelona World Race was a non-stop race. It was very long I have to say. This is a much longer event but its in stages. I think we are only in Cape Town for ten days and India for twelve and a lot of that time is fairly intense ashore as well, recovering from the leg and preparing for the next leg. But there is a certain amount of time off and a part of that is, of course, to spend time away from the project and my family helps me to do that, so thats great!