Spirit of Canada: Qualifying Races
I support Derek Hatfield and Spirit of Canada
on which he intends to compete in the 2008 Vendee Globe solo circumnavigation Open 60 class race. I thought I would post his communiques here (and not in the less-frequented Racing sub-forum) because I think his story merits broader interest. His campaign, and the boat he's built have been largely financed by individuals (mine is one of 5,000 names painted on the side), and by Hatfield's countless personal experiences. This is the guy who, after dismasting in his Open 40 in the 2002-2003 Around Alone race off Patagonia, rerigged his vessel in four weeks with a mast driven from Canada to Argentina and still
made third place in his class, which shows how far ahead he was, even against Open 50 competitors.
I've interviewed him a couple of times. He's an impressive and (obviously) highly focused individual and a true seaman.
He's just taken his new boat (which I've seen up close...Alex would drool) down to Brazil:
Hello from Spirit of Canada
Spirit of Canada sits peacefully at the dock in Salvador de Bahia,
Brazil after 4300 nm and a 17 and a half day delivery from Halifax, Nova
Scotia. We arrived here around midnight local time on Tuesday Nov 13th and
sat on the boat for more than an hour contemplating the trip. The Open 60
Spirit of Canada proved a lot more physically demanding than the Open 40 but
the performance is very impressive. I am slowly coming to grips with how
to run the boat by myself. Because of the grand prix design, the boat
trim requires a lot more diligence to maintain maximum performance.
After many months of preparation, we left Halifax on the 27th of
October. The Ecover B2B required that we travel non-stop and without
assistance in order to qualify the new boat for the upcoming race. The 4300nm course proved challenging with a number of routing options requiring
decisions. The sailing conditions proved straightforward with just a couple of
unpleasant nights of upwind sailing with the boat slamming down the
waves. It is hard to believe how noisy it can get below when you are trying
to get a bit of sleep. The boat has also hit a best speed of 26kts with
just main and jib so we are pleased with the performance. The crew on
board consisted of myself, Patianne Verburgh and Damien De Pas. Damien did
the Mini Transat (transatlantic in a 6.50 meter open class boat) in 2001
and is a great asset on board. Damien is an avid environmentalist and his
own sailing programs fit well with ours, as he is involved with education
programs that teach children about environmental issues. To find out
more about him and his sailing experiences, please visit
We quickly settled well into a routine of watch keeping and
maintenance work and the 17-day trip passed quickly. There have been a few
expected breakages onboard, but the delivery and time on the water proved a
great testing ground for the upcoming race to France. The plan at this
point is to leave the boat in France for the winter months and then deliver it
back to Toronto to fulfill the many sponsorship sailing events. This means
that I will have more than 12,000 nm on the boat before the start of the
Vendee Globe in November 2008.
We celebrated crossing the equator in the usual way with a salute to
Neptune. After crossing into the southern hemisphere, it was a
straight sail past Recife at the bulge of Brazil and then southwest into
Salvador at about 13 degrees south. The trade wind warmth and sailing
conditions were a welcome condition from the wooly caps and boots that were
donned to leave Halifax. The sun and deep blue water are very motivating. One disturbing aspect of the trip here is that in 17 days of sailing, we
saw only three dolphins. This seems almost impossible as in the race
around the world in 2002, there were almost daily visits of some sort from
these fantastic animals.
Currently the rest of the Open 60 fleet are racing south engulfed in
a close battle in the Transat Jacque Vabre. We expect to see them here
in Bahia in about 3 days. We are really looking forward to seeing the
rest of the fleet and getting the job list done for the Ecover B2B race back
to France. It will be a great day when we have qualified the boat for
the Vendee Globe.
Another word of thanks to our sponsors.
Racing and representing Canada at this level of competition requires
financial sponsors and one of the most important parts of my job is
to support and recognize those special people and companies that support
us. We have many sponsors to thank including the 5000 individuals that
have put their name on the hull of Spirit of Canada as well as the more
than 45 corporations that have made in-kind or financial contributions.
Recently VELUX Canada increased their support for Spirit of Canada and their
support greatly helped us in the upcoming Ecover B2B. Also, increased
support from The Caritate Foundation and Earth Rangers allowed us to
proceed with preparations to date. To all of our sponsors, thank you.
And to everyone, please support our sponsors in every way that you can.
Without them, Spirit of Canada would not exist.
Stay tuned for further updates as we prepare for the Ecover B2B.