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Black Betty gets final checkup

3rd June 2008

Ger O'Rourke will travel to Lanzarote this week to make final checks on Black Betty, the VO70 formerly known as ABN Amro 1, before closing the deal to use the boat as Ireland's second Volvo Ocean Race entry.

Black Betty has served as a trial horse for the Ericsson team since winning the last race.

Despite having done an entire circumnavigation and spent months testing off the Canary Islands, Betty is understood to be in pristine condition and has already undergone many of the modifications that will allow her compete against the next generation of VO70s.

These modifications include changes to the rigging, deck hardware and bowsprit to account for the increased loads generated by masthead code zero sails.

The last race was predominantly a heavy airs downwind race, whereas this race will involve a lot more light airs and upwind sailing, which means the enormous overlapping genoas known as code zeros will bring a huge boost to performace at true wind angles of between 35 and 55 degrees.

The package that O'Rourke is looking at is thought to involve as many as 25 sails from the last campaign and from training, however O'Rourke is likely to invest in a wardrobe of new canvas from North Sails, buying in as many as 12 of the 14 permitted sails brand new for the 2008/2009 race.

After test sails and structural checks in the Canaries, the Limerick skipper will sail the delivery trip north with five of his crew panel and a number of Ericsson team sailors who will assist in the handover.

The boat will then be prepped for the Round Ireland, after which it will be stripped of keel and mast while further modifications and safety improvements are made in a shed located in Limerick. Several of the crew panel are understood to be professional boatbuilders, and the work will be largely done by in-house team members. The refitted boat will then take part in some two-boat testing with the Green Team boat off the west coast of Ireland.

One disadvantage that the Irish team won't be able to overcome is the boat's lack of beam. The new boats are wider than Black Betty by up to 500mm, allowing them generate greater bouyancy and righting moment and thus more power.

Neither will it be the first time on board the boat for O'Rourke, who enjoyed a stint on Black Betty during Antigua Week in 2007, during which his Chieftain crew managed a win on handicap over the 70-footer.

The overall figure that O'Rourke has paid for the package is not known, but he is known to be courting sponsors who he hopes will invest in the region of €4million in the project for headline rights. Other teams, like Ericsson are thought to have secured nearly ten times that for naming rights to their projects.

More details on this evolving project as we have them.

And in case you have forgotten just how quick ABN Amro was in the last race - click 'play' below for a refresher course.

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