A BORDERS sailor has acquired the yacht which he hopes will help steer him into the sailing record books when he becomes the first Scot to complete the gruelling Vendée Globe round-the-world race later this year.
John Mackay, from Lauder, along with Vendée Globe veteran Steve White and crewman Dominic Bowns, sailed the newly acquired Open 60 vessel, now christened Spirit of Scotland, from the Spanish port of Alicante into Scottish waters for the first time last week.
The boat, one of the most tried and tested of its kind, will remain in Scotland while Mr Mackay raises the rest of the sponsorship – some £400,000 – that he needs for his epic Vendée Globe campaign.
Spirit of Scotland was built for the 2000 Vendée Globe and has since completed several solo circumnavigations. While it may be an older Open 60, it has definitely been put through its paces and is exactly the kind of boat that Mr Mackay says he needs for his Vendée campaign.
“I am not looking to win the race. My goal is to complete the course safely and, by doing that, raise awareness of a number of charities in Scotland and the profile of Scotland itself,” said Mr McKay, a businessman originally from Glasgow with a long-term interest in anti-poverty campaigning.
He added: “There’s never been a Scottish entry in the Vendée Globe race. If I could start and finish the race, that would lift Scotland to somewhere like fourth or fifth in the IMOCA [International Monohull Open Class Association] standings.”
For the next few weeks, Spirit of Scotland will be docked in front of the Royal Yacht Britannia at Leith and be open to the public. In addition to seeking eight sponsor partners to contribute £50,000 each, Mr Mackay is looking for grass roots support from local sailors who can make donations through the campaign website – www.spiritofscotland.com
Mr Mackay started sailing on the Clyde as a teenager and bought his first boat in 1982. In the near three decades since, he has logged more than 50,000 nautical miles in the seas off the west coasts of Scotland, Norway and France.
But he has always harboured an ambition to tackle the greatest challenge for any sailor – a solo non-stop journey round the world.
Now he wants to follow in the wake of Hawick-born sailing legend, Sir Chay Blyth, who, in 1971, became the first man to sail around the world against the prevailing winds and currents from east to west.
The Vendée Globe takes place every four years and in the 2012 event, the seventh, between 15 and 20 competitors leave Les Sables d’Olonne in France on November 10.
In the last event, four years ago, only 11 of the 30 boats that had started the event managed to cross the finishing line.
“I have had a burning ambition to sail solo non-stop round the world for a long time – the Vendée Globe in football terms is the world cup final,” Mr Mackay said.
And the sailor went on: “I believe a Scottish entry will be good for sport in Scotland and will give our young folks the courage to follow their ambitions. To represent my country in a major global event is a privilege that is awesome and humbling.
“I am a man of faith and a poverty campaigner. It is important to me to contribute to the fantastic effort and work that so many good charities achieve worldwide.
“My goal through this Vendée Globe campaign is to carry this message to the world of sport and beyond: do more to support charity and help to challenge poverty in our world. I believe more sports and famous sports personalities can help to change our world, I wish by example to encourage them.”
Encouragement has come from Sir Chay, who rates the Vendée Globe as the toughest single-handed yacht race so far conceived.
“The yacht and skipper must be as one and in harmony with each other,” he told TheSouthern. “It will take courage, tenacity and a great deal of determination to keep the yacht sailing at maximum speed at all times.
“To assist John, the Team Vendée Scotland have a great deal of work to do as this race is very much a team game and John will rely on them before the start, during the race and at the finish. I wish John and Team Vendée Scotland all good wishes for a very successful race and a safe return.”