On Thursday 15 March, Dutch yachtsman and Global Ocean Race (GOR) entry, Nico Budel, sailed into Puerto Punta del Este with his first generation Akilaria Class40 Sec. Hayai following a single-handed, 29-day delivery from Cape Town, South Africa. The following weekend, Budel was joined in Uruguay by his wife, Myrna, and Erik van Vuuren, his co-skipper for 5,700-mile Leg 4 from Punta del Este to Charleston, USA. Van Vuuren, one of the Netherland's most experienced big-boat professional inshore and offshore sailors, has – potentially - long term plans of Class40 sailing: “Four years ago I started a sailing consultancy,” says the 42-year-old Dutchman. “I’d seen some Class40s in France and I thought it would be great to sail one and see what it’s like and maybe try and organise bringing more Class40s to Holland,” he explains.
Van Vuuren is a multiple Dutch sailing champion and won the X99 World Championships in the early 1990s; has been part of a winning Admiral's Cup team on two occasions and, more recently, won Les Voiles de St. Tropez and the Rolex Middle Sea Race in 2011. “The GOR is a good opportunity to sail a long leg on a Class40 and see how it goes,” adds Van Vuuren who has already spent time in Europe sailing with Budel. “A year and-a-half ago, Nico got in touch because he was doing weekly training on his Class40 in Scheveningen and that was the starting point,” he explains. “After a few weeks sailing together, he asked me to join him on one of the GOR legs.”
Nico Budel completed GOR Leg 1 from Charleston to Cape Town with fellow Dutchman, Ruud van Rijsewijk, taking sixth place, then on Leg 2, the 72-year-old yachtsman dismasted on the first night at sea off the Cape of Good Hope racing with his son, Frans, when rigging component failure brought an abrupt halt to continuing the course to Wellington, New Zealand. Without seeking assistance, the Budels motored back to Cape Town and immediately began making plans to re-join the GOR.
New sails from North were ordered and a replacement carbon mast was built by Southern Spars and, 11 weeks after the dismasting, Budel set off from Cape Town for a 4,400-mile solo voyage through the South Atlantic to Uruguay. “Everything is perfect!” confirms 72-year-old Budel. “Losing the mast wasn’t good, but we now have new gear including a Cuben fibre mainsail and we can push hard on the next two legs,” adds the unstoppable Dutchman. “Erik is a very experienced sailor and it’s going to be good!” The mutual respect on Sec. Hayai is clear: “I know from sailing with Nico in Scheveningen that he has immense experience with the boat and together we can work well,” says Van Vuuren. “If we want to do things differently we’ll just get on with it and we’ll talk about it afterwards.”
On Friday, Budel and Van Vuuren sailed Sec. Hayai (formerly Beluga Racer of the 2008-09 GOR double-handed winners, Boris Herrmann and Felix Oehme) 18 miles upstream along the River Plate to the modern and efficient marina at the Riviera-style resort town of Piriápolis for a haul-out: an operation co-ordinated by the Yacht Club Punta del Este and offered free of charge due to the GOR’s status as an event of national importance granted by the Uruguayan Ministry of Tourism. Van Vuuren explains the work undertaken: “After the keel repair in Cape Town, Nico wanted to check that everything was OK and the keel is fine. We changed one rudder bearing that had some slight movement in it, but this wasn’t really necessary. We just wanted to make sure everything was 100 per cent ready.”
Budel has an impressive track record for someone who came into sailing late in life, taking first in class in the 2005 OSTAR after 22 days and taking eighth out of 41 finishers in the solo leg of the 2011 AZAB Race. In the 2008-09 GOR, Budel – sailing in the solo division on Open 40 Hayai – sustained keel failure on Leg 2 and was forced to abandon his boat and, currently, there appear to be no plans for winding up his career in round-the-world racing. “I think 85 years-old is a good age for a final circumnavigation!” says Budel.
Meanwhile, the duo’s plans for a Class40 expansion in Holland are already underway: “When we arrive in Charleston I’ll have four weeks of experience and if I’m really enthusiastic about it, I’ll continue with Class40 sailing,” says Van Vuuren. “In Holland, double-handed sailing is becoming more and more popular because it’s really difficult for owners to get a full crew on the boat,” he explains. “Ten years ago, everyone had one hobby that they could do with their family, so they could spend a lot of time sailing,” continues Van Vuuren. “Now, everyone still likes to sail, but they often have nine other hobbies and owners just can’t find the crew, so they opt for double-handed.” There are, however, challenges ahead: “In Ijsselmeer, the water isn’t deep enough for Class40s with a maximum of around three metres in depth,” continues Van Vuuren of the 1,100km² artificial, freshwater lake in central Holland. “But maybe there is a chance to have something in Schaveningen on the coast,” he says. “So we have a few ideas of getting this organised.”
During the first few days of Leg 3, GOR entry Buckley Systems was forced to withdraw from the race following severe back injury to Ross Field in strong headwinds and Campagne de France of Halvard Mabire and Miranda Merron failed to complete the course, judging the conditions ahead to be too severe and followed the Fields back to New Zealand. Mabire and Merron are currently on board a commercial ship with their Class40 en-route to Charleston, but have not, so far, committed to racing for the final GOR Leg 5 from Charleston to Les Sables d’Olonne, France. With Sec. Hayai re-joining the race for Leg 4, the GOR fleet is currently four Class40s.
GOR crew list for Leg 4 from Punta del Este to Charleston:
Cessna Citation: Conrad Colman (NZL)/Scott Cavanough (AUS)
Financial Crisis: Marco Nannini (ITA) and Sergio Frattaruolo (ITA)
Phesheya-Racing: Nick Leggatt (RSA) and Phillippa Hutton-Squire (RSA)
Sec. Hayai: Nico Budel (NDL) and Erik van Vuuren (NDL)