Newest Volvo syndicate hires Annapolis' Larson

Veteran of global racing to skipper Pinnacle boat

Sailing

April 09, 2004|By Candus Thomson | Candus Thomson,SUN STAFF

The newest of the Volvo Ocean Race syndicates - the second from the United States - has hired an Annapolis veteran of global racing to be skipper of its entry in the 2005-06 campaign.

Chris Larson, winner of the 1997 Rolex Yachtsman of the Year award, will pilot the Pinnacle Race Management Group's boat when competition begins off Spain in November 2005.

In the last Volvo campaign, Larson was brought aboard the Swedish entry ASSA ABLOY to help correct tactical deficiencies that had pushed the boat to near the back of the eight-boat pack early in the race. He sailed all but one of the remaining legs, and the boat finished in second place.

PRMG syndicate director Michael Castania, who held a similar position with Team Tyco in the last Volvo race, said Larson is a natural fit.

"We met in 2000 when we were making the selections for Tyco. I liked what I saw. On ASSA, every time he was on board they did well," he said. "Right from the beginning, our approach has been U.S.-based, and Chris is a large part of that."

The head of Ocean Race Chesapeake, the local host when the race makes its only North American stop in April 2006, applauded the hiring of Larson.

"That we know Chris so well because he's a favorite son is good for us and good for the syndicate," said Gregory Barnhill.

By announcing Larson, PRMG gains a leg up on the other U.S. syndicate, the Annapolis-based Team Kan-do.

The local group, formed last year, has been unable to secure a major sponsor and is trying to attract one by auctioning off the rights on eBay for $10 million. With two days to go, it has not attracted a single bid.

Financial backing has proven elusive for many would-be competitors. So far, out of more than 30 potential teams, the Volvo has attracted only two fully funded syndicates: Telefonica, the leading Spanish telecommunications company, and ABN AMRO, a Netherlands financial institution that has announced it will race two boats.

With six in-port races making up 20 percent of each competitor's total score, Larson, a short-race expert, is expected to provide his syndicate with extra firepower.

"It gives them great credibility," said Barnhill. "A syndicate that has someone with Chris' expertise is going to have an incredible advantage coming out of the gate."

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