With the deadline for entries into the 2016 Brewin Dolphin Commodores' Cup now passed, eight three boat teams are set to contest the Royal Ocean Racing Club's biennial championship for Corinthian crews, taking place out of Cowes over 23-30th July.
Teams for the 13th Brewin Dolphin Commodores' Cup, comprise three from Team France, two from Team GBR and others from Flanders North Sea and, for the first time, Israel. The last to raise its head above the parapet is the Celtic Team, comprising two boats from Scotland and one from France.
The Celtic Team has been masterminded by Scottish adventurer, Jock Wishart, who is campaigning Jean-Eudes Renier's JPK 10.80, Shaitan. Shaitan is joined by the Corby 37, Aurora, which co-owners Roderick Stuart and Bill Ram's raced in the Scottish team in 2014 and originally, when new was Eamonn Rohan's Blondie III and competed for Ireland in 2006. The Celtic team's small boat is a new JPK 10.10, Space Oddity, campaigned by St Malo-based sailmaker, Marc Noël.
Once upon a time a grinder on Lionheart in the America's Cup, Wishart is best known for his epic expeditions. Way too numerous to list in full, these have included rowing across the Atlantic, the fastest circumnavigation of the globe in a powered vessel (Cable & Wireless Adventurer), rowing to the geomagnetic North Pole, various other expeditions to the North Pole, including, last year, the Arctic Rugby Challenge, a trek there to play the 'most northerly rugby match in history'.
Wishart has previously crewed in the Brewin Dolphin Commodores' Cup, but this is the first campaign of his own. He admits: "It has always been one of those things that I've always wanted to do. Everything came together - I haven't got a big expedition on this year, so it was time to do a bit of sailing."
He took delivery of Shaitan just four weeks ago and, after two training weekends, has taken to the race course and in the recent RORC IRC Nationals, finishing ninth in the 19-boat IRC Two class.
As to this year's Brewin Dolphin Commodores' Cup, Wishart observes: "There are no weak teams - they're all strong. It is going to be very, very competitive and that is good for the event."
According to Aurora's Rod Stuart, their aim had been to field another Scottish team as in 2014, but they were unable to muster a small boat. He is pleased with the new arrangement: "Scots and French sailing together, it's an old alliance and should be a lot of fun. I don't think it will be as 'stiff upper lip' as being part of GBR!"
In his youth, Stuart raced a 30ft trimaran solo the 'wrong way' across the North Atlantic in the 1988 OSTAR, convincingly winning his class ahead of a young Royal Marine called Pete Goss.
His present campaign began six years ago aboard an Elan 410, EOS. "In the front of the boat were all young Laser sailors in their late teens from the RYA centre at Cumbrae," Stuart recounts. "We started pretty awfully, but four years later we were on the podium in the Scottish Series and in Dun Laoghaire, etc."
They also raced numerous offshores such as Round Ireland, the Rolex Fastnet Race and the 2013 Middle Sea Race, in which they finished second in a 30-strong IRC Two. They acquired Aurora for the 2014 Brewin Dolphin Commodores' Cup and have been 'learning the boat' ever since.
Stuart is a big fan of the Brewin Dolpin Commodores' Cup: "There are lots of special things about it - it is very intense and very tiring and you are sailing against a selection of the best boats from all these different countries."
"For us this is a continuation of our learning process. We finished two years ago feeling that we could do better. On the way back home we decided we were going to come back again."
However as Stuart observes: "Since the boat's called Space Oddity, he [Marc Noël] is clearly a Bowie fan, so he's got to be alright..."
Eddie Warden Owen, CEO of the RORC welcomed the eighth team: "As a Welshman I am delighted to see a Celtic team, which is the initiative of my good friend Jock Wishart. There is a good mix of teams this year; the standard is high and there's no stand-out team, so predicting a winner is impossible which is very good for the teams and the event. For sure I'll be rooting for the Celts."