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Staying Ashore

by Betsy Crowfoot Senior Writer, Quokka Sports on 14 Oct 2000
Eight crew members choose terra firma; will sit out Leg Two for mixed reasons.

Norwich Union watch leader Will McLorn has resigned from the Challenge, saying handing in his resignation "felt like being punched in the stomach." McLorn is one of a handful of sailors who will leave the BT Global Challenge 2000/01 astern and chart a new course from here.

Race organisers at Challenge Business maintain a reserve list of people who have trained for such occasions -- to fill in for departing crew. Still, the exodus of crew has rattled eight teams; only four yachts will sail with their original crew and leggers.
McLorn, a 42-year-old airline pilot from Toronto, Canada, said, "It never once crossed my mind … life takes some funny turns." But part way across the Atlantic, during the first 3,200-mile leg of the Challenge, he was faced with an ultimatum.

An email from a co-worker described changes within their company. "Through acquisitions, the rules have changed." McLorn was given a choice: "10 months of racing or 18 years and a secure lifestyle for myself and my family."

Although McLorn said he "agonised over the decision," trying desperately to see if he could complete Leg Two, he was faced with a "limited window of opportunity. It became a no-brainer. I had to put my family first."

"This has been three years in the making," McLorn said of his participation in the Challenge. "It's hard to about-face after just one leg. It is very difficult, very painful."

The father of a three-year-old girl, McLorn admitted, "with college and music and now dance lessons, I'm told" on the horizon for his daughter, the decision was obvious. "It's the difference between five-digits and six-digits."

"I set out to complete the whole race -- but not at all costs. I will make the best of a bad situation and not dwell on it. I do feel a sense of accomplishment, to have crossed the North Atlantic," McLorn continued. "I'll take the best parts and go on with that."

McLorn said he will move his home office into the basement where he can scan the Web site and privately "cry an occasional tear when my team is doing well."

"I still feel part of the team; they've made me feel that way." Yet he admitted, he and his Challenge mates, "quickly become a family -- lifetime friends. I feel I let them down -- that's the hard part."

"For the sake of his family, unfortunately he has to leave us," added Neil Murray, McLorn's skipper aboard Norwich Union, "which is very sad for the family he leaves behind on the boat."

"He said from the outset that his priority is always going to be his family. And everyone knows that, and everyone accepts that he has no choice to leave, but of course everyone will be sad to see him go," Murray added.

Past Norwich Union staffer Neville Maggs will fill the empty berth, however Murray has elevated crewman Ross White to watch leader. "He's held in very high regard by the rest of the crew, and is well respected despite his age," Murray said.

But White, who celebrated his 23rd birthday during Leg One, said he was "absolutely gutted" that McLorn was leaving. "I'm pleased I'm watch leader, but I would have preferred not to be, this way."

"No skipper wants to see a crew member leave," conceded Stephen Wilkins, skipper of Spirit of Hong Kong. But it became evident during the first, 3,200-mile leg of the Challenge that one of his crew, Mike Hewson, "wasn't enjoying it; he wasn't comfortable."

"People get caught up in the idea of the Challenge, the euphoria. And they go for it, which is fantastic. But some people get out to sea and find they're not cut out for this type of stuff," Wilkins said.

Hewson, a 56-year-old married lecturer from Bromley, England, admitted before the Challenge that he was prone to "seasickness and discomfort" at sea, but tackled the 30,000 mile offshore to test himself and see the world.

During Leg Two reserve legger Mark Willard will sub for Hewson -- who will remain a member of the team, at the urging of his mates, said Wilkins. "He [Hewson] feels his best way to support the team is ashore."

LG FLATRON's onboard medic, Bob Schmidt, has departed for like reasons: discomfort and inability to overcome debilitating seasickness. But a surprising twist finds Schmidt's son, nurse Jared Kleiss, replacing him for legs three through the finish. Claiming similar grounds, Isle of Man medic Nick Lipscomb will depart -- to be replaced by fellow physician and friend Peter Knight for the latter legs. Hank Donaldson will fill his berth in Leg Two.

Challenge Business' Ann Carvey said the company keeps a roster of candidates who signed up too late for the current Challenge and have instead elected to prepare and stand by as reserves. "We usually have about 20 or 30 people on the list," Carvey said -- a sizeable pool -- "but the trouble is, very often, it's short notice and it's not really possible for them to get their lives in order."

Some of those reserves have stepped up to the plate however as a number of crew volunteers sit out Leg Two for medical reasons. After aggravating an old ankle problem, Nick Hannah, Compaq, has elected to return to England for surgery and will be replaced by legger Sanny Gibson. BP's Marcel Thommen will sit out a second leg while a knee injury heals. Maureen Clark -- mother of VERITAS crew member Deborah Hadween -- will fill in. Substituting for LG FLATRON's Tim "Tiger" Farnel is Katherine O'Connell, who has experience sailing a classic Challenge yacht.

Jasmine Georgiou -- who was airlifted from Logica in the final days of Leg One -- will rejoin her team in Buenos Aires, Argentina, giving Leg Five legger Andrew Lomas an advance position on the yellow boat.

Georgiou's unfortunate circumstance, however, gleamed with a silver lining -- as news that her convalescence in a Nova Scotia hospital had brought medic Ginger McKenzie to the Challenge fleet.

"A great thing happened today," wrote Georgiou's husband Will Brammer, a member of VERITAS. Challenge Business' Claire Smyley, who had been regularly checking up on Georgiou via Nova Scotia Regional Health Centre supervisor Mark Wheeler, "just happened to ask if he [Wheeler] knew of any medics who might want to do a leg at short notice."

Brammer continued, "It is little wonder that he found Ginger -- a keen sailor who has agreed to do part of the race. She in turn visited Jas and I at the hospital today to get more info about what she could expect." McKenzie will fill in for LG FLATRON's Schmidt for Leg Two.

Olympic Group, Quadstone, TeamSprirIT and VERITAS will race with their original core crews and planned leggers.

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