The Belgian Whitbread 60 yess, skippered by Piet Smet, was due to start her attempt on the Round Britain and Ireland record between 1200 and 1400 hours today, 22 March. On board the former Merit Cup (the boat Dalton did not take in the last Whitbread) will be 14 crew. The anti-clockwise trip around all the British Isles including St Kilda, Sula Sgeir and North Rona, but not the Channel Islands and Rockall is 1,787 miles long.

The record is currently held by Steve Fossett at 5d 21h 5m. This was set on his 60ft trimaran Lakota and so will be very tough to better. There is no official monohull record for this course says the World Speed Sailing Record Council’s Sir Peter Johnson, the official timer for the attempt.

The yess campaign

After a complete refit of the former Merit Cup 1, recently renamed yess, an intensive training schedule and selection of the crew, Jan van Lierde, Manager of sponsoring firms Kreon and Vektron decided that now is the time to show the potential of the yess concept.

The speed record around Britain and Ireland is controlled by the World Sailing Speed Record Council. The start will be near Ramsgate, where yess has been berthed for over a week now. Navigator meteorologist Peter Tans says that the evolution of the weatherwill make it possible to chose a counter clockwise route. It will be upwind until they reach the Shetland isles, which they will leave to port. “From there on there will be northerly wind, ideal code zero weather” says Smet.

For the moment the record is about eight days but Smet thinks he will make it in six and a half. Tans, looking back at his experiences with Brunel Sunergy in the last Whitbread, talks about five and a half days.

yess is in better shape than ever before. This Bruce Farr design was Grant Dalton’s tune-up Merit Cup for the last Whitbread. Dalton always said he regretted leaving this boat behind as she would have been more suited to the weather conditions experienced out on the race track. Since the technical rules for the next Volvo Ocean Race have not changed dramatically from the last Whitbread, yess must be the best performing VOR 60′ in the water, says Jan van Lierde.

At the time the Volvo Ocean Race programme was announced in London, the yess crew were working hard to refit the boat and overhaul the gear, the two containers full of parts and the 45 sails. The mast foot has been reinforced and the hull and deck were completely stripped. Awlgrip experimented with a new type of anti-slip paint for the deck, because the original paint created an ice skating surface with the smallest drop of water on it.

On board everything is now in Ocean Race shape. Crew clothing has been reduced to the strict minimum, although they have now a built in hi-fi station. “The music pumps up the morale,’ smiles Smet. The complete food reserve is stored in a not even big clothing bag in order to put it easily in the right place. Peter Tans works with people from the KNMI: “It’s a matter of reaching the ideal weather conditions just in time,” says Tans who worked already with the Dutch National Meteorological station during The Whitbread.

Business management will lead to the first ISO 9001 norm in sailing history. Manager and architect, Jan van Lierde, leads two companies, Kreon and Vektron. Kreon designs and builds high quality lighting equipment in a minimal art style. Vektron manufactures combination ceilings and walls, not only to fit the lighting sets, but also for different kinds of applications.

Van Lierde created an independent firm from where all activities of the yess project are controlled. The reason for calling this firm Code is evident: “The most successful part of the former Whitbread was the Code Zero, we hope Code will function at least as efficiently. Van Lierde applies his business management to the complete project. Starting with the selection of the crew: “We looked first of all at their personal engagement. If someone is really goo