The 77’ maxi, Great Britain II, the only yacht ever to take part in five consecutive Whitbread Round the World Races (the forerunner of the Volvo Ocean Race), is to race once again. She will be on the start line with a host of other legendary boats, competing at next year’s Volvo Ocean Race Legends reunion and regatta in Alicante, Spain.
The yacht was built especially to compete in the very first Whitbread, and was skippered by Sir Chay Blyth, who was awarded a CBE as the first person to sail single-handed non-stop westwards around the world in 1971 onboard the 59’ British Steel.
Sailed by a crew of paratroopers, Great Britain II won line honours in 1973-74, setting a bench-mark record for the circumnavigation of 144 days. Chay was reunited with the yacht again in 1981, the third Whitbread Race, but this time she raced under the name of United Friendly.
The late Rob James, took the helm in the second Whitbread, held in 1977-78, again winning line honours and slicing 10 days off the record to log an elapsed time of 134 days. Bob Salmon became her skipper in 1985-86, renaming her Norsk Data GB as a result of gaining some sponsorship the day before the start of leg one.
Great Britain II sailed her fifth and final race under the name of With Integrity, skippered by Andy Coghill. Among her crew was a young Englishman, Matt Humphries, who went on to take part in the Whitbread and Volvo Ocean Race five times, and was skipper of Dolphin and Youth in 1993-94.
The yacht’s present custodian is Paul Rushton. After caring for her for over 15 years, he thinks this is a far more appropriate title. He bought her sight unseen over dinner on a train in the spring of 1995 – a deal that took less than 30 seconds. Paul and his family are bringing the boat, now renamed Whitbread Heritage to reflect her past, from her home port of Cowes, Isle of Wight, to Alicante, so that they can share her history with others.
“We feel that the underlying principle of the regatta which is a celebration of the human endeavour, excellence and camaraderie that an event of the stature of the Whitbread and Volvo Race can engender is worth embracing,” said Paul Rushton. “The event will remind people, sailors and non-sailors alike, what is possible if someone dares to dream, as they did in 1973, and if someone, such as Volvo, dares to keep that dream alive,” he added.
Great Britain II/Whitbread Heritage’s entry is the first of several Volvo Ocean Race Legends announcements planned before the end of this year. Many people who have sailed in the first 10 races will be gathering in Alicante, and some will be fortunate enough to relive their past experiences onboard the very boat that was their home for nine months, as long ago as 37 years.
About the Volvo Legends Regatta and Reunion
• The first ever official reunion of all who have sailed in the world’s premier ocean race since the inaugural race in 1973-74.
• To be held in Alicante, Spain from 1-5 November 2011, week between Alicante In-Port Race and the Start of Leg One of the Volvo Ocean Race.
• A full racing schedule over two days.
• Will conclude with a departure ceremony and parade of sail to escort the Volvo Ocean Race fleet to the start line for Leg One
• A rich shoreside programme includes a regatta prizegiving, a gala dinner and a host of other social events.
• Chat shows and forums after racing.
• Legends entries open for public viewing.
•148 boats have crossed the start line in the 37-year history of The Whitbread/Volvo Ocean Race
• 1974 crew competed in the first 10 events
• The first 31,250 nautical-mile race first took place 37 years ago (as the Whitbread Round the World Race 1973-74), testing the crews against some of the most ferocious elements that man can encounter
• The Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12 will be the 11th edition of the event
About Great Britain II
• She was built especially for the inaugural Whitbread Round the World Race in 1973-74
• She was twice raced by Sir Chay Blyth (1973-74 and 1981-82)
• She won line honours in 1973-74, taking 144 days on her circumnavigation
• She raced in 1973-74, 1977-78, 1981-82 (United Friendly), 1985-86 (Norsk Data GB) and 1989-90 With Integrity
• Great Britain II is the only yacht to have raced in five consecutive races