UK-based Open 60 event is in the balance as sponsor withdraws

The prospect of the first major Open 60 event in the UK was put in doubt yesterday when Challenge Business announced that EDS, the sponsor of its new Round Britain and Ireland Race, has pulled out.

The non-stop race has been planned to start from the Solent in July and finish during Skandia Life Cowes Week and has attracted firm interest from Mike Golding, Nick Moloney, Jean-Pierre Dick and Team Michel Desjoyeaux.

The sudden withdrawal of EDS reflects hard times at the global IT services company. The share price plummeted last year when earnings fell sharply and the company was faced with asset write-downs related to the bankruptcy of two of its largest customers, WorldCom and US Airways.

An EDS spokesperson stated that the company would not be supporting the race but added that ‘sailing as a sport·fits closely with its core values and the drive of its employees and customers.’ EDS sponsored the Atlantic Challenge race for Open 60s in 2001 and also put up a prize for the 24-hour speed record, which is currently held by the crew of Tracy Edwards’s maxi catamaran, Maiden 2.

Simon Walker, managing director of Challenge Business commented: “We are naturally incredibly disappointed with the news but fully understand EDS’s position. Sponsors’ objectives do change and we’re extremely lucky to have had such a tremendous working association with the company.”

Challenge Business hopes the race will go on but requires another sponsor. They say they are talking to other companies and expect to make a decision ‘within a couple of weeks’.