Graham Dalton announced today he will not make the start of the Velux 5 Oceans race 20/10/06

Graham Dalton announced today that he will not make the 1300 start of the VELUX 5 OCEANS this Sunday, 22 October, due to severe damage to his mast. With just two days to go until the start of the solo round-the-world yacht race, Dalton, who has been plagued with problems throughout his campaign insists he will still start the race, as soon as is practically possible which under race regulations, must be within seven days.

Dalton explained in today’s final skippers press conference, that overnight the mast, which was tightly lashed down to four trestles in the boat yard, ready to be lifted back into the boat today, was blown to the ground in a 60 knot gust of wind, cracking the inboard end of the lower starboard spreader. Being especially critical to the mast’s structure and strength, the carbon spreader must be carefully reconstructed before Dalton is able to set sail in the 30,000 round-the-world race, especially with the gale force conditions forecast for the first few nights. Dalton however, remains positive, commenting: “I will make it to the startline, it just will not be on Sunday. It just seems like one thing after another, but I see my cup as half full, not half empty.”

The other seven skippers competing in the VELUX 5 OCEANS, the ultimate solo challenge, were also present at the press conference, commenting on their thoughts regarding their boats, preparations and expectations for the first leg.

Kojiro Shiraishi (JPN) on his boat:
“It is a very big step up from a 40 foot boat, which I sailed in the last race, to a 60 foot boat for this race, but I am very excited. I was very happy with how the boat handled when we went out sailing in 60 knots on Wednesday, she sailed very well in the strong winds.

On having been in Europe for six months now:
“I have been really missing my family, it is a shame they can’t be here in Europe, but they will be able to come out to Australia, so I am really looking forward to arriving in Fremantle.”

Tim Troy (USA) on his pre-race journey:
“It has been a tremendous struggle to get to the start line. I have been working on my boat in preparation for this race for the last two years, whilst maintaining a regular 80 hours-a-week job and of course trying to spend time with my family. I have had to put a second mortgage on my house. The last minute things have not turned out quite as I had hoped but I am not giving up! I have a great opportunity in this race to learn from the other guys which I am really excited about.”

Alex Thomson (GBR) on his boat:
“This year I have complete confidence in my boat. We have broken pretty much everything in the last few years, including the keel, and then the mast on the way back from Australia. We’ve put a lot of work into it in preparation for this race and I have complete confidence in the boat.”

When asked whether he has any surprises in store for the start of the race:
“Well we started the Sydney to Hobart race in suits, and have had a few ideas about how we will start this race. Whatever we do, it will be in style!”

Bernard Stamm (SUI) on the first night of the leg:
“It is very difficult to be so close to land after the start, this is a different course to what we are used to. The forecast is for a windy first night so we may be racing in survival conditions. I want to make it to Fremantle, Norfolk, and back to Bilbao safely, so it is important to maintain a balance between speed and not breaking things.”

Sir Robin Knox-Johnston (GBR) comparing his 1969 circumnavigation to the VELUX 5 OCEANS:
“I am taking a big step up, from a 32 footer to a 60 foot boat, it has more than four times the sail area and two times the waterline length. It’s a very different game, it is like comparing the age of bi-plane with Concorde.”

When asked whether he feels ready to go:
“Obviously, the more time you are able to spend with the boat on the water, the better you know it. I am probably the least experienced Open 60 sailor here, but my learning curve will be much steeper than that of any of the others – which to me is an advantage.”

Regarding his back injury:
“It is not serious, it is more of an inconvenience than a problem, and it will get better.”

Mike Golding (GBR) on whether he sees the fleet splitting into two packs:
“It is quite possible – certainly early on in the race there may be a split due to the range of experience that we have here. Three of the boats regularly take part in the Open 60 circuit so you might expect them to be ahead to begin with. Everyone will gain experience and speed as the race goes on and I think we will have some interesting racing. I feel well prepared and ready to race.”

Unai Basurko (ESP) on being the local hero:
“Clearly it is a big help for me to be from the host port of Bilbao – the local people and the local media have been a huge support to me. I am very pleased with my new boat, which I sailed from Sydney to Spain after it was built, and has been based here since. I am not looking forward to saying goodbye to my family but am excited about heading out onto the open ocean.”

The VELUX 5 OCEANS starts at 1300 (local time) on Sunday 22 October, from a startline just outside the Puerto Deportivo Getxo, Bilbao, Spain.