Velsheda’s owner speaks out

  • Wed, 21 Apr 2010

Ronald de Waal, owner of J Class Velsheda, sheds more light on the withdrawal of Hanuman from the Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta

Velsheda

Following events surrounding the withdrawal of Hanuman from the Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta, long time supporter of the class Ronald de Waal who owns Velsheda, has spoken out. Earlier stories on this site describe what happened during the regatta and two letters from Hanuman's owner Dr Jim Clark have also been posted.

This is what Ronald de Waal has to say about the situation:

In order to give a more complete and balanced picture I would like to react to the correspondence and letters Dr Clark has aired about the J-Class and which were published by Yachting World among others.

It is still a mystery to me why Dr Clark spent more then two years building Hanuman, having Gerard Dijkstra and his office deeply involved to create the fastest J, using the know how they assembled refitting all the other existing Js, entering the regatta in Antigua, practise and then not race.

Dr Clark did not cut any corners building the boat with carbon rigging, a lightweight interior as well as building a full wardrobe of racing sails. Dr Clark surely was aware of the way the boats were being raced with a mix of professionals and non-professionals. This is being done so that we can sail these big complex boats well, and also for safety reason.
 
With the Velsheda programme we have been sailing with the same crew for 8 years, some have been with us for 10 years. As a sponsor for Team NZ we had some of the guys of the team sailing with us as a return favour, which has been the situation for many years now.  

Dr. Clark himself also engaged some heavyweight sailors and professionals such as Tom Whidden, Robby Haines etc and even tried to get Russell Coutts to join him for the regatta in Antigua. Dr Clark went out practising the same day as us and apparently he was at the helm for about half an hour. After his arrival back at the dock he decided to send the letter to John Williams of Ranger and myself withdrawing from the race. I was stunned. (Read previous news story.)

Then, Dr Clark and I had a personal conversation in which I explained to him that there had been no change as to the crew formation for this race on Velsheda. On the contrary I had ten amateurs of which most were non sailors and four kids on board. He knew I would be at the helm.

However, Dr Clark decided not to race as he did not want to race against these "professionals". It was very unfortunate he chose not to do so as there were four days of fantastic racing between Ranger and us and we were fortunate (or good enough) to beat the bigger Ranger four days on handicap and two days over the line.

I sincerely hope Dr Clark will come around and race with us in the future. In his latest letter his proposal is to only sail with professionals and for each of the owners to donate $10 million for a good cause, which is a little far fetched, but at least he is talking about racing again. The mix of professionals and amateurs creates a unique atmosphere and camaraderie on and off the boat.

I also believe it is up to the owners individually to decide to which charitable organisations they wish to donate money. That does not mean that I would not personally support a donation of some sort from the J-Class Association during J-Class events for a marine/ocean environmental cause. With various J-replicas being built at the moment and the current re-fit of Endeavour under way it would be unfortunate to dampen the excitement in the Class to race these beautiful boats together (in the future) by making this a media spectacle off the water instead of on the water!

Ronald de Waal

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