Tony Bullimore ought to have been well into his round the world voyage by now, if he were to have much chance of succeeding in his bid to break Ellen MacArthurís solo record. Instead he is bullying a bullworker in a Hobart gym!
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There’s a second reason that he should have left though and that’s the fact that his catamaran had been renamed “Doha 2006” and it is now January 2007!

On August 2, 2006, BYM reported that Bullimore was close to an assault on the solo Round-the-World record, in an ex-Tracy Edwards boat, to be named Doha 2006. That fuelled speculation that his attempt would be made in the former Club Med, renamed Doha 2006, for the Oryx Quest event. Doha 2006 won that event; Bullimore, in Daedalus – the only other Oryx finisher – came second. However, later that month, a spokesman for Bullimore told BYM News that his attempt would be in the former Enza, which was entered as Legato in The Race, as Daedalus in the Oryx Quest and would now become Doha 2006, for this record attempt, which would be sponsored by Qatari interests. The spokesman went on to say that Bullimore hoped to start his attempt, which was designed to draw attention to the Asian Games, within a month to six weeks, leaving from Tasmania.

It is now the end of January, and Tony Bullimore has just celebrated his 68th birthday in Hobart, where Doha 2006 remains at the quay side, six weeks after the Games it was to promote ended!

Far from starting a record attempt some time in September 2006, it was late October, when Bullimore announced that Doha 2006 had hoisted her new sails, for the first time, and was heading out of the Gulf State of Qatar, bound for his round-the-world start line, in Tasmania. Over the weeks, following his departure from the Middle East, Tony Bullimore and Doha 2006 were to get a lot of publicity.

Bullimore stopped off in the Maldives and announced that he had the support of two new front line sponsors – real estate investor Qatari Diar and Mistral Internet - for his attempt to break the solo non-stop round the world sailing record.

Tony said he was sailing to Hobart, with a four-man crew, to test not only the sail systems, but the satellite communication links onboard that would keep visitors to his Mistral powered web site informed, with daily video and audio updates through a virtual server solution. From that point on, the sponsors got plenty of coverage, not from what Tony said, but from what he didn’t say!

In the Indian Ocean all communications from Doha 2006 ceased, raising yet again in newspapers, TV and the internet, the almost 10 year old story of his rescue from his upturned Vendée Globe yacht, in a massive operation by Australian Search and Rescue teams.

At the time, it was a story that captured attention worldwide and made Tony Bullimore a household name, even amongst those who had little interest in ocean racing! So, when Bullimore and Doha 2006 “vanished” for a second time, it is hardly surprising that the media got hooked into the story.

The attention ensured a fair crowd awaited Tony’s arrival in Australia and the fact that he arrived with a bit of a “bang”, which threw a crew member into the water, only added to the interest.

That interest hasn’t diminished since Tony arrived in Hobart, Tasmania. A warm welcome awaited him, at the Bellerive Yacht Club and members willingly set to, to help Tony prepare Doha 2006 for a late December departure.

On December 12, there seemed to be a setback that could have ended the record attempt, before it even began. Australian TV showed footage of the catamaran’s carbon fibre mast dropping to the  ground, when a rope broke, but Tony seemed unconcerned, despite those with carbon fibre experience talking of potential, later, effects as a  result of concussion.

On December 23, 2006, Bulli announced that he would be on standby from December 31. His press release said “The final countdown has begun for Tony Bullimore’s challenge to break the 70 day barrier for sailing solo non-stop around the world.  His 102ft catamaran Doha 2006 was lifted back into the water at the Incat shipyard, in Hobart, on Thursday and she will undergo final tuning and preparations over the Christmas break.

‘We are just waiting for the last sails to arrive from South Africa, some new logos to be put on the hull and for the satellite communications equipment and onboard camera systems to be commissioned, and I will be ready.’ said Tony.”

That departure was put back. “We’ve taken local advice, and decided that it might be just too dangerous to set out from Hobart’s Iron Pot lighthouse at the mouth of the Derwent River with these (Sydney-Hobart) race yachts still coming across Storm Bay from Sydney” said Barry Pickthall, Team Bullimore’s spokesman.

In the second week of January, we learned that Bullimore had problems with his gennaker furling gear and a runner, which required these items to be flown to Sydney and New Zealand, respectively, for repairs.

On January 21, a press release from Team Bullimore said “Tony reported today, ‘ The weather is not right at the moment, so we have spent the time fine-tuning some of the systems on the boat, and getting myself as fit as possible.’ Tony, who turned 68 in January, says he is using this extra time to build up his stamina levels by working out in the Oceana gym each day.

Whilst waiting for a weather window, he plans to take Doha 2006 out for a series of sail trials with Simon Redding, Team Bullimore’s shore manager, and a group of enthusiastic members of the Bellerive Sailing Club who have been helping to prepare the big catamaran.

The release went on to say that several sponsor decals that did not stand up to the wear and tear, between Qatar and Hobart, would be replaced and that the satellite communication and camera set up on the boat needed attention. Tony said ‘“This equipment should have been commissioned, before Doha 2006 left Qatar for it’s delivery sail to the start line in Hobart, but it was not and this has caused delays. It is imperative that I can transmit pictures and video to the media as I go round the world so that everyone can see the action as it happens.’”

Some think it’s too late for action, because setting off in mid to late February will mean returning through the Southern Ocean, somewhere between mid-April and mid-May, which many believe to be too late for a safe return.

A very experienced Chilean seafarer and yachtsman told BYM News “At that time, for someone arriving in the Roaring Forties, I would suggest that the low pressure systems would be moving north and, in the forties you would be getting equinoctial gales. Later in the winter, conditions in the high 40s/low 50s would be more settled than in summer.”

Pickthall points out that, with Cape Horn behind him on the outward journey, Bullimore need not drop down into the Roaring Forties on the return leg, but if he doesn’t the distance to home will be increased and the chance of a record decreased.

Does it matter? Whether Tony breaks the record, or not; whether he even sets out, his sponsors have had a lot of print media, TV and internet coverage already. Is that how they see it though, or could the fact that Doha 2006 did not depart, before the Games it was named to promote, be an issue?

Qatari sponsorship of ocean sailing events did not get off to the greatest of starts, with the much publicised saga of Tracy Edwards and the Oryx Quest, which ended up with the finishers, of which Bullimore was one, receiving empty envelopes, instead of the expected cheque. It was a factor in Edward’s subsequent bankruptcy, from which she has now been discharged.

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