Derek Hatfield throws hat in ring

Offshore racer Derek Hatfield today announced Spirit of Canada’s’ next single-handed challenge around the world will be the VELUX 5 OCEANS 2010-11. The Canadian adventurer is the first skipper to be officially announced for the next edition of VELUX 5 OCEANS, which currently boasts nine confirmed entries. The remaining eight skippers, hailing from six different nations, will be announced in the coming weeks and months as they finalise their campaigns.

The Ultimate Solo Challenge was first organised in 1982, and the eighth edition of this classic event will start in La Rochelle (France) on October 17th 2010. A fleet of Open 60s will take on five gruelling ocean sprints as the solo sailors circumnavigate the planet around the three great Capes. Hatfield (57), has unfinished business following his forced retirement from the Vendée Globe 2008 and returns to the event which launched his career in singlehanded sailing.

Commenting on the VELUX 5 OCEANS 2010-11, Derek concluded, “I am very excited about the VELUX 5 OCEANS as it is a race that I know well; we had a very positive result in this race in 2002 when I competed in the 40 foot Class. This will be our third single-handed race around the world after the Around Alone 2002 and the Vendée Globe 2008 and we are looking to be very competitive on the water. We will be competing in the Eco 60 Class as it embodies our core values with regard to the environment and education. The Spirit of Canada Eco 60 will carry the colours of Canada and our supporters around the world once again.”

The newly defined Eco 60 Class is designed to introduce a new dimension of economical and ecological Open 60 offshore racing. The concept for the singlehanded sailing class, to be premiered in the VELUX 5 OCEANS 2010-11, encompasses Open 60 yachts launched before 1st January 2003. The Eco 60 Class will be governed by a number of rules and regulations designed to limit costs and encourage positive environmental practices and will take advantage of the large market of third generation, second hand Open 60 yachts for sale, which are proven to be safe and reliable.

Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, Chairman of the race organiser Clipper Ventures, commented, “Derek is an old friend and I look forward to having him in the VELUX 5 OCEANS again. With over a year to go, we have nine confirmed entries in our promising Eco 60 Class, three quarters of the way to our target of twelve boats racing across five very different ocean sprints. The Eco 60 Class has proved extremely popular with sponsors and skippers, particularly given the prevailing global trends for reducing costs and embracing sustainability. We hope this exciting new class can provide a low cost platform for aspiring sailors with limited budgets to break into the world of singlehanded sailing, identifying new talent from a competitive sporting arena of skippers, ranging in nationalities, racing experience and motivations. The VELUX 5 OCEANS is ultimately all about accessibility, professionalism and safety.”

Derek Hatfield was the 2003 Canadian Rolex Sailor of the Year and is the 126th person in history to finish a single-handed race around the world. Competing in the Open 40 Spirit of Canada, he finished first in his fleet and in 3rd place overall in Class II in the 2002-03 Around Alone race, despite a life threatening and catastrophic capsize near Cape Horn.

Between 2003 and 2006, Derek and the Spirit of Canada team went on to build the first Open 60 in Canada. In May 2006, the Open 60 Spirit of Canada was launched in Coburg, Ontario after 22,000 man-hours and was prepared for the 2008 Vendée Globe, the single-handed race around the world, without stops and unassisted. Of the 30 competing skippers, only 11 managed to finish the gruelling race. After 50 days of racing and deep in the Southern Ocean, Derek and his 60 foot sailboat were rolled upside down and sustained mast damage. Unable to make repairs himself, Derek was forced to retire from the race.

Spirit of Canada Ocean Challenges is a team of sailing and marketing professionals that are currently preparing to compete on the world sailing stage for a third time in the VELUX 5 OCEANS. Announcements on the choice of Eco 60 boat will be made in the coming months following purchase negotiations.