Sunday, 10 April 2011

GOR: Ross Field & Son return to offshore racing

The yacht was prepared for transport by Campbell Field and Jose Muñoz in the resort town of Algarrobo. Image copyright Campbell Field.

by Oliver Dewar

Following almost a year of intense planning and secrecy, the New Zealand duo of Ross Field and his son, Campbell, have officially entered the double-handed, round the world, Class40 Global Ocean Race 2011-12 (GOR). The duo represents a combined offshore racing background unrivalled in the GOR fleet and has successfully purchased the Guillaume Verdier Design Class40, Desafio Cabo de Hornos: the yacht sailed to second place in the double-handed class of the inaugural 2008-09 GOR by the Chilean duo of Felipe Cubillos and Jose Muñoz.

Towards the end of March, the yacht was prepared for transportby Campbell Field and Jose Muñoz in the resort town of Algarrobo on Chile’s west coast before a 20-mile journey by truck south along the coast to the port of San Antonio. The boat is currently on board a commercial ship sailing from San Antonio to Rotterdam and will be trucked onwards to the Berthon Boatyard in Lymington, Hampshire, on the UK’s South Coast, for refitting before the Fields begin their GOR training and qualifying programme.

The Fields have been planning their GOR campaign from opposite sides of the planet: Ross in Waipu Cove on North Island’s north-eastern coast where he lives with his wife and a variety of dogs and cats, and Campbell at home in Lymington, UK, with his wife and son. “It’s great to be entering the GOR as we’ve have been working on this for a long time,” confirms Ross and Campbell agrees: “It is fantastic to be able to announce our campaign and entry in the GOR,” he adds. “We sat down and had a discussion late last year and decided to combine our skills and take it on together,” Campbell continues. “Now that we have a great boat, it’s full steam ahead.” For Ross, the trigger to enter came from a fellow GOR competitor: “When my good friend Halvard Mabire entered, I thought I had better do the same,” he comments of the French yachtsman, a veteran of five Whitbread Round the World Races, a former navigator for Field and half of the GOR’s Mabire-Merron team with British yachtswoman, Miranda Merron.

The offshore racing experience held by the New Zealand team is formidable. Ross Field has logged five circumnavigation races with three consecutive Whitbread Round the World Race entries: first on NZL Enterprise in the 1985-86 edition, then racing with the late Sir Peter Blake on the Division A winner Steinlager 2 in 1989-90 and skippering the Whitbread 60 Yamaha to victory in 1993-94 against the combined skills of Dennis Connor and Brad Butterworth on Winston and Chris Dickson and his crew on Tokio. In 1997 Ross put together Americas Challengebut was forced to withdraw in Cape Town.

In the 2001-02 Volvo Ocean Race, Ross was the syndicate head and co-skipper of News Corporation. When not engaged in racing around the world, Ross has raced and skippered in nearly all major international offshore events including Round Europe Races, Sydney-Hobart Races, Melbourne-Osaka Races, Bermuda Races, Fastnet Races - holding the Fastnet record for nine years - and numerous other events. He is still racing his own canting keel 52-footer in New Zealand.

The offshore racing DNA dominates the Field genes. From 1994 to 2000, Campbell managed racing yachts and competed in all the major events across the Caribbean, USA, Northern Europe and the Mediterranean. In 1997 he was selected for the Chessie Racing team in the 1997-98 Whitbread Round the World Race, eventually completing Leg 1 on Americas Challenge. In 2000 he moved to the UK, settling in Lymington and taking the post of Product Manager at B&G, the high-end marine electronics company. After a period of running his own navigation system business and dividing his time as a navigator for inshore and offshore races, Campbell returned to round the world racing. He took a last minute post as relief navigator on board Brunel Synergy for Leg 1 of the 2005-06 Volvo Ocean Race, before switching to join the Movistar team where he took the role of Technical Manager. During the 2008-09 Volvo Ocean Race he was Shore Manager for the Telefónica team; an enormously complex and responsible position that included overseeing the build of the campaign’s two Volvo Ocean 70 race yachts.

With the invaluable bank of experience, skill and knowledge in place, the Fields needed a competitive Class40: “When it became obvious that we had run out of time to build a new boat, we did an immense amount of research into the best second hand boat avalable,” Ross explains. “The Verdier boat came up trumps and we are extremely lucky to find the boat in Chile.” The Field’s Class40 is scheduled to arrive in Lymington on 9th May with logistics for the entire journey from Chile organised by GOR Race Partner, Peters & May, and will undergo a refit at Berthon Boatyard. Both Ross and Campbell will be working on the boat undertaking rig, hull and keel checks and optimisations; servicing or replacing all the rigging, deck gear, rudders and electronics and changing the boats striking, bright red livery for their own team colours. Sea trials will be carried out in the Solent and English Channel before competing in the Les Sables – Horta – Les Sables Race as part of their GOR qualifier.

Ross and Campbell Field buy the ex-Desafio Cabo de Hornos for the Global Ocean Race. Image copyright Campbell Field.

For Ross, racing again with his son is an exciting prospect: “I have raced with Campbell a lot and I believe that we complement each other very well,” he explains. “Campbell is an extremely talented navigator, sailor and manager – he is a great asset to the campaign.” However, Campbell is aware that converting to shorthanded sailing on an unfamiliar class of boat will be a challenge: “The Class40 two-handed presents an early and steep learning curve for us both,” he admits. “We have a very good relationship, complementary skills and backgrounds and have raced together before, so I know we make a pretty strong team. I can’t wait to get underway and have fun racing in what is shaping up to be a great event.” Meanwhile, both co-skippers are watching the countdown clock for the race start in Palma, Mallorca, on 25th September: “The GOR is a great event and has a great future,” says Ross. “I’m looking forward to lining up on the start line with twenty boats to race around the world with traditional stopovers and a classic route – this last happened in 1989, if I remember correctly,” he comments. “Well done Josh and others for having the foresight and drive to put together a great race.”

As the Field’s Class40 left San Antonio on Tuesday as deck cargo on the 23,000t CCNI Elbe, a void in Chilean marine folklore appeared. During the 2008-09 GOR, Desafio Cabo de Hornos and co-skippers Felipe Cubillos and Jose Muñoz entered the record books as the first Chilean team to complete a round the world race and the first Chilean’s to race round their country’s southernmost territory – Cape Horn. Cubillos and Muñoz achieved a sporting status in Latin America usually reserved for footballers and their bright red Class40 became a talisman for Chilean sailors. For Cubillos, parting with his beloved Class40 was a time of mixed emotions: “I have to recognize that it is difficult to leave her,” he admits. “It’s like leaving a daughter to begin her life alone, but we know that her life will once again be filled with a lot of excitement and passion.” The Chilean skipper is overjoyed that the Fields are taking on the boat: “What is nice is that she will serve a father and son in pursuit of their dreams and if I ever do the GOR again, I will do it with my son also,” he promises. “Desafio Cabo de Hornos, ‘Colorina’! You will always be in my heart,” Cubillos vows. “You, Jose and all the GOR team made possible the best year of my life.” However, the Chilean yachtsman is already planning a rendezvous with the boat during the forthcoming GOR. “We will see you again at Cape Horn!”

Josh Hall, Race Director of the GOR, is extremely excited by the latest entry: “A truly formidable duo aboard a truly formidable Class40,” says Hall. “Ross and Campbell have certainly upped the GOR ante with their entry in the event and bring with them a wealth of high-end offshore racing, planning and preparation,” he continues. “The cross-section of sailors in this GOR is now quite simply astonishing and the racing that will unfold is guaranteed to be tantalising. We are also impatient to witness the meeting of eclectic characters and minds shore-side that will, we are sure, make the GOR a highly competitive, yet highly inspirational race for everyone involved and everyone watching the proceedings evolve,” predicts Hall. “The stage is set for something special – welcome to the theatre, Ross and Campbell.”

Global Ocean Race