Grant Wharington and VOR race team face VOR In Port race problem

Grant Wharington, NG Real Estate Brunel VOR skipper (pictured) is studying the rule book to find a way for his Volvo Open 70 to be fully crewed for the In Port race on Boxing Day after three of his team, including himself, are unable to take part.

Wharington, his navigator Matt Humphries and trimmer Mark Fullerton have all flown to Australia where they are sailing in the Sydney to Hobart race which runs on the same day.

But under race rules they cannot simply call up three replacements, as anyone sailing the In Port race must have “sailed in either the previous leg or will sail the next leg.” There is a bit of a loophole, though, as the rule doesn’t say that the crew members must have sailed on any particular boat.

The Australian team will now have to try to recruit a sailor discarded by another team, or sail the inshore course with fewer crew if the double-booked sailors are to rejoin the team for the Southern Ocean leg to Melbourne.

Should they fail to find any replacements that meet the criteria, Barney Walker, the stand-in skipper, looks likely to lead a crew of just eight men around the Cape Town In Port course.

They have only six of their regular sailors available for the race, as their tenth man for the second leg is not due in Cape Town imminently, but they, as do all the teams in the fleet, have two participant representatives who do not need to have sailed the last or next leg.

The two sailors recruited are Ian Ainslie, a South African sailor borrowed from Shosholoza, the South African America’s Cup entry, and Gideon Messink.

Walker said: “There are people around who we can try and get. Freddie Loof sailed the last leg on Pirates and there is Tony Kolb from Ericsson, and there’s a couple of Brasil 1 guys, but it’s getting a bit late in the day for that now. We have eight guys as it stands and we are hopeful we can get at least one more, maybe two, but it is difficult to get people out here at Christmas.”

Despite the prospect of starting the race with three men less than their rivals, Walker remains upbeat about ING Real Estate Brunel’s chances.

“If the conditions are right we can do well. If there is light wind we will be fine, because our boat has a fixed canard, so it doesn’t need lifting and lowering like the others, and our boat generally isn’t too difficult to sail in those conditions. The only area where we will struggle is going to be changing sails when the fewer men will count against us.”

Wharington, who is currently preparing his super-maxi Skandia WildThing in Australia, said: “It’s a shame that the In Port race clashes so badly with the Rolex Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race, since this is the major event of my super-maxi Skandia WildThing’s calendar and one I cannot miss. Matt came to us quite late and was already locked in to the race too, and Mark Fullerton, our trimmer is also contractually locked in. Makes life a little complicated, but the guys we have in Cape Town are all fantastic sailors and they know the boat better than anyone so I am sure they will manage beautifully without us!”