when you have to have it

Having just read that GAC Pindar has deservedly won the contract for supplying the logistics support for The Ocean Race for an unprecedented time reminds me of their extraordinary efforts two races ago.

When 250 miles from Cape Horn and lying in first place overall on the leaderboard two races ago and ironically having eased off to preserve the boat the top one third of Dongfeng’s mast parted company. There started an extraordinary adventure to get to Itajai and continue The Race.

Having sent Kevin Escoffier up the wobbly mast (several of the shrouds were not in tension) to cut away the damage DFRT limped into Ushuaia, reputed to be the most southerly city in the world,  with a useless mainsail (top third missing). The initial plan was to disembark the crew, put the shore crew on board and then attempt to motor to Itajai for the start of the next leg. That plan was set back by a 24 hour air crew strike by Argentinian airline employees and the fact the Chinese Crew members could not get landing visas. A stroke of luck however, was that a French family cruising on a 60’yacht had recently replaced their mainsail and ‘donated’ their old sail to the team. Martin Stromberg, an experienced sailmaker was able to recut the sail to allow motor sailing on the remaining stump towards Itajai.

That of course is only half the story.

A team that had a spare mast in Europe was approached regarding purchase  but they declined to assist – all’s fair in love and war I suppose. That left the ‘official’ spare mast in the Middle East.

Up stepped GAC Pindar. The mast was loaded onto an Emirates Cargo 747 and flown to Schipol where it was transferred to a KLM Cargo 747 and flown to Brazil. It was then transferred to a truck – a blood long truck I might add – for the 600km or so road trip to Itajai where it was dressed and mated with the DFRT boat. Cost? Well, let’s just say it was a lot.

I am sure the shipping of containers for stopovers round the world will be a piece of p cake for GAC Pindar compared to the extraordinary evolution of getting a mast of that length almost half way round the world. 

Unbelievably there were competitors that tried to insist that DFRT should try to mate a new top third to their mainsail in Frankenstein fashion rather than them receiving a new main, an idea that was swiftly and comprehensively scotched by the sail suppliers North Sails.

Well done GAC Pindar, it is when hard jobs are successfully completed that shows class, not when the routine ones are just carried out. – SS.