Friday, 18 December 2009

First Night of Sleep for Etihad Stadium Supermaxi Skipper

by Jody O'Brien

The owner and skipper of the Etihad Stadium Supermaxi got to bed before 3am for the first time in a week last night, with a transport solution for the replacement mast appearing to be settled.

But the news is not all good, with the mast not able to arrive in Australia before early Monday afternoon (21 December), leaving the project team and the Supermaxi crew just 3 days til Christmas to put the 98 footer back together again and get to the start line for the 2009 Rolex Sydney Hobart.

Timing is critical, and at a time of the year where Christmas cargo is also on a looming deadline, it has been incredibly difficult to find a freight transport timeline that works in their favour, or be able to negotiate with any other cargo to move to later flights to enable them to get on the earliest possible flight to make the best possible connection to Sydney.

In the case of the precious package of carbon fibre mast that Grant Wharington and his crew so desperately wanted to be in Sydney tomorrow (Saturday 20th December)– there are some horses flying out of Singapore who appear to also desperately need to be in the Harbour City for the weekend as well !!

“Unfortunately, we have not been able to bump the horses off the Singapore Airlines flight” said Grant late last night.

“We are now confirmed on a Qantas flight arriving in Sydney at two o’clock (AEST) Monday afternoon,” he said, trying to remain positive, but well aware of what this timing does to their chances to be turning south at Sydney Heads on Boxing Day.

Ever the fighter, the Victorian skipper is still keeping other options alive.

“The only other irons in the fire at this stage are a possible charter flight from Toll Logistics to intercept the shipment in Singapore and deliver to Sydney on Saturday afternoon,” he said.

In times of frustration like this, it’s always handy to see a bit of humour lighten up the situation, and Grant’s well known cheeky streak surfaced with an exhausted smile.

“Or the other option of course is if somehow in the morning the horses get loose and run away, and space becomes available on the Singapore flight again!!”

Jokes aside, Grant is feeling thwarted by the effect that the delay in arrival has on the chances for he and his crew to compete in the 65th Rolex Sydney Hobart, a race that at age 45, will be his 24th .

“This is very disappointing, as we thought the Singapore Airlines flight was a strong possibility” he admitted – and then explained what the delay means.

“Should we have had the package in Sydney on Saturday afternoon, we would pretty much have guaranteed being on the start line,” he said.

The 48+ hours that they have lost has severely shortened their odds.
“With the mast’s arrival now scheduled for Monday, I’m sad to say that we are now probably only a 50/50 chance at best!” said Wharington.

Nevertheless, the project continues in Sydney with many other things on a mammoth list being ticked off.

“All the other tasks to modify the boat to suit the new mast seem to be in hand, such as new chainplates, top and bottom boom attachments, as well as hydraulic checkstay and backstay cylinders,” he said.

The mast is currently sitting in the snow at Liege airport about to be loaded onto the flight to Singapore – a visual that is the source of significant discontent for Grant.

“It is very frustrating to think that upon arrival in Singapore, the mast will be sitting there for over 2 days, not moving while we have 25 men on standby ready to work on it as soon as it arrives in Sydney,” he said.

Whilst not admitting defeat by any means, Grant is aware that all the options have been explored and pretty much exhausted.

“I now cannot do any more - we are not giving up and we are determined to remain positive.”

“And the run up to the start of the Great Race is sure to have many more twists and turns, but we really need some major luck soon!” he said.

Etihad Stadium supermaxi

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