A UK Volvo Ocean Race bid led by Lawrie Smith, Brian Thompson and Simon Rogers Yacht Design claim they have a 50:50 chance of being on the start line in November

A UK entry could be on the start line of the Volvo Ocean Race this November if sailing director Lawrie Smith, skipper Brian Thompson and yacht designer Simon Rogers can raise £3 million in the next two weeks.

Plans have been in place for the attempt for some time but Ellen MacArthur’s triumphant return to Falmouth following her astounding record breaking circumnavigation has boosted the team’s hopes as their potential sponsor re-considers the marketing potential of an £8 million round the world campaign.

“We’re on the brink,” said Simon Rogers who confirmed that they have a build slot for his Volvo 70 design at Green Marine starting on 25 February. “We have a potential UK investor who is considering putting up £3 million which will get us to the start line and we are in negotiation with a big blue chip company.”

Rogers confirmed that veteran Olympic and Whitbread sailor Lawrie Smith, now 49, would be the team’s sailing director and he didn’t rule out that Smith could sail in the race himself. “He would be awsesome,” said Rogers who added that Brian Thompson, currently leading the Oryx Quest skippering Dohar 2006, would also skipper the Volvo entry. “There is a host of world class UK yachtsmen available to us,” said Simon Rogers who added that at least one Olympic sailor was also keen to join the project.

Howard Gibbons, who has shore managed several Whitbread and Volvo campaigns, is also involved in the UK bid. According to Rogers an article in tomorrow’s Investor’s Chronicle will bemoan the UK’s non-involvement in what is regarded as the pinnacle of offhore ocean racing, especially following the country’s outstanding Olympic success and now MacArthur’s immense achievement which, of course, has brought congratulations from the Queen and the Prime Minister. “We have great sailing Olympians and look at Ellen – but why don’t we have a Volvo Challenge?” asked Simon Rogers. “At this stage we still have a 50:50 chance.” He said that the branding and marketing achievements delivered by MacArthur’s effort should prove to any company that sailing success on a global scale brings with it immense opportunities. See details of Simon Rogers’ Volvo 70 in the next issue of Yachting World magazine.