Bullimore still in Tasmania after 3-month standby for round-the-world record attempt

Tony Bullimore, 68, has been on standby for his attempt at Ellen MacArthur’s solo circumnavigation record for so long that we’d almost forgotten about him. He and his team have been in Hobart, Tasmania, for three months, waiting for a suitable weather window to try and break the round-the-world speed record set in February 2005 by Ellen aboard her trimaran B&Q.

When he finally heads out of Hobart, Bullimore and his 102-ft (31m) catamaran Doha will track east, with Cape Horn the first waypoint, onto the Azores, past the Cape of Good Hope and back again to Hobart. To break the existing record of 71 days, 14 hours, 18 minutes and 33 seconds, he would have to sail the 23,000 mile route at an average speed of 13.5 knots, over 323 miles a day,

So why is he still in Tasmania? A series of high pressure systems have been lingering over the Tasman Sea since early January, says Bullimore’s weather router Lee Bruce, pushing the low pressure systems too far south for him to be able to hook into good winds. But with autumn setting into the Southern Hemisphere, the risks of icebergs and adverse conditions are increasing by the day, and the chances of finding a suitable weather window are closing. Bruce commented that the weather pattern emerging over the next 10 days looked unsuitable, and, to outsiders at least, it seems increasingly likely that Bullimore might have to abandon the quest.

Bullimore himself, however, remains optimistic that the voyage will go ahead. Speaking live from Tasmania at a press conference at Inmarsat’s London headquarters this morning Wednesday March 28, he announced a new sponsorship deal with Inmarsat and Blue Ocean Wireless, relaunching his quest as the Blue Ocean Wireless Round the World Challenge. He stated that he would not abandon the attempt, though he admitted he was feeling a ‘little agitated’ by the continuing delays:

‘it’s impossible to have a cut off date because that’s not part of who I am. When I decide to do something, I do it. The boat is in superb condition, we’ve been through everything… replaced all the furling gear, all the rigging, the runners? We’re ready to go tomorrow.’

The 68-year-old said that he had ‘no concerns at all’ about the voyage ahead, and that he’d been hard in training for the last two months. He reported that Team Bullimore had enjoyed huge support from the Australasian public; even the Australian Prime Minister John Howard has invited him to lunch.

His new sponsors will provide him with up-to-the-minute technology that will enable him to communicate with the outside world via mobile phone and even text messages during his quest. Bullimore is an odd choice to fly the flag for a communications company, as he is renowned more for his lack of communication than his love of it. Delivering Doha to Tasmania last November, a glitch with his communications equipment led to a worrying 11-day silence. And back in 2001, he took four journalists, including YM’s ed Paul Gelder, on a ‘daysail’ to Falmouth that didn’t go to plan. Throughout the five day, 1200 mile trip that eventually landed in Portugal there was a radio silence because the boat’s communications equipment wasn’t set up, and the crew were left with no way to let their loved ones know where they were.

Unfortunately, YM didn’t get the chance to ask if things would be different this time around? as Tony’s phone call was cut off mid-sentence. By, you’ve guessed it, a communications failure.

Look out for our podcast from the press conference on the website soon
Picture credit: PPL