Spartan Out Of Shed And In Water Ahead Of VELUX 5 OCEANS

Chris Stanmore-Major's Eco 60 given new lease of life from refit

Eco 60 YachtShe was once known as Saga Insurance, grey hulled and light blue decked, the yacht which took Sir Robin Knox-Johnston round the world at the age of 67 in the last VELUX 5 OCEANS. But yesterday the famous Eco 60 emerged from the boatshed as Spartan, bright, bold and with a new lease of life following a major refit before being craned into the water.

Spartan's skipper Chris Stanmore-Major, known as CSM, only got back from circumnavigating the globe with the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race just over a month ago but wasted no time in giving the yacht a complete overhaul ready for the VELUX 5 OCEANS start on October 17. Spartan now sports a striking new red and grey livery with a patriotic Union flag covering the yacht's transom thanks to International Paints. She was lowered into the water at Endeavour Quay in Gosport, UK, yesterday afternoon.

"It was a really big day for us," the 32-year-old from Cowes in the UK said. "Suddenly we have a boat on the water and not just a hull in the yard. It's really exciting. We now have to move onto the next stage: putting the mast on, getting all the ropes set up, the sails on and then getting her out sailing."

Spartan has a rich ocean racing pedigree, having won the 1998/9 VELUX 5 OCEANS (then the Around Alone) under race legend Giovanni Soldini's control. Most recently she was skippered by Sir Robin Knox-Johnston to fourth place in the last edition of the VELUX 5 OCEANS. However for the 2010/11 race CSM wanted to change her image completely with an eye-catching new paint job. Spartan also now boasts the latest instrumentation and autopilot systems thanks to leading marine technology company Raymarine. Her textile rigging and fittings have been renewed by Kiwi Marine and Marlow Ropes are supplying high performance running rigging. Finally, Spartan will compete with a brand new suit of North sails, bringing her up to top specification.

The yacht takes its name from the ancient Greek city-state Sparta, known for its fearsome warriors. In 480 BC, 300 Spartans fought a legendary last-stand battle against the might of the Persian Army, giving CSM the inspiration for the yacht's hull number: 300.

"We wanted to change her look and I think we definitely accomplished that," CSM said. "The name is Spartan so her number had to be 300. She has a huge Union flag across her back because we are very proud to be representing Britain in the race. It's a very distinctive look which I hope will make us stand out from the fleet.

"We are now one step closer to the start of the VELUX 5 OCEANS. There are a lot of parts to this process but once we have the mast on and we can go sailing then things will start to accelerate. Once we have taken her for a test sail it will be straight off on the 2,500-mile qualifier to run her in and get some character in her. With the qualifier out of the way it will be full steam ahead to La Rochelle."

Meanwhile, fellow British ocean racer Simon Chalk has set off on his qualifying passage on his Eco 60 yacht Ocean Planet. Belgian skipper Christophe Bullens is also at sea, halfway through his qualifier. Christophe is currently rounding the small island of Flores, the most westerly island of the Azores, on his yacht 5 Oceans of Smiles.

The VELUX 5 OCEANS, run by Clipper Ventures PLC, is the longest running solo round the world race, and has 28 years of rich heritage as the BOC Challenge and then the Around Alone. This edition features five ocean sprints over nine months. After heading from La Rochelle to Cape Town, the race will then take in Wellington in New Zealand, Salvador in Brazil and Charleston in the US before returning back across the Atlantic to France.

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