When the British presented her 2005 plan for the Oryx Cup about six months ago, she landed a much-admired coup in the sailing scene: her sponsors of around 55 million euros for a non-stop race with maxi-cats around the world in 2005 and another event Assured in 2006.
The winner should receive a million dollar prize money, and the race should also be counted as a Jules Verne Trophy attempt. Six teams expressed their interest at the time, and it looked like the event could be a highlight of the regatta calendar in 2005.
But then everything turned out differently. The Frenchman Bruno Peyron, who felt cheated of his The Race concept by Edwards' event, sued the Briton for £ 14 million in damages. As a result, Edwards' sponsors partially dropped out, and the whole company seemed to be on the brink, dPeyron tried to discredit the event.
At a press conference, Edwards tried to prove that their event was still secured. In Qatar, the participants came together for a meeting and were intended to demonstrate that the event is taking place without question.
But that seems more questionable after the meeting than ever before. From what was once six teams, four remained, whose starting chances are rather dubious: The American Cam Lewis still only has one badly damaged boat ("Team Adventure"), which after a breakdown due to disputes with his insurance company will certainly not be ready by the start on February 5th
The Frenchman Loick Peyron could rent or buy the Kat from Ellen MacArthur, but the boat has neither rig nor sails and needs a refit. The latter is also urgently needed for Tony Bullimore's "Team Legato" (formerly "Enza"), which, moreover, is without question no real competition for the boats of the last Maxi-Kat generation.
The situation of a potential team from Tracy Edwards himself is also obscure. Her ship "Maiden" (formerly "Club Med") has surprisingly been sold to an undisclosed prospect. A team may be forming here, but everything still seems very vague.
This also applies to Steve Fossett's boat. His "Cheyenne" (formerly "Playstation"), the current record holder for the fastest circumnavigation of the globe, needs a refit and is for sale. But there is no prospect with enough money in sight.
The only well-prepared and fully financed participant is Olivier de Kersauson with his maxi-trimaran "Geronimo". The Frenchman has just modified his boat and, after several failed record attempts, is hot for his first victory and a direct comparison with the big cats.
But that should be difficult. Because in addition to the technical problems with the boats of the other participants, none of the teams has already secured funding for their projects. In addition, Europ's ships have to be sailed to Qatar to start, which should take at least a month in the middle of winter. Incidentally, the port of departure was quietly moved from England there, which also does not speak for a smooth preparation.
The participants would be allowed to arrive no later than 10 days before the start, that would mean they would have to leave Europe at the end of December. So there were just under three months left for finding sponsors, repairs or refit, crew selection and sail manufacture. An almost hopeless endeavor.
On the other hand, Tony Bullimore, Loick Peyron and Cam Lewis have already proven at The Race that they can do such feats: Back then, all three teams stomped out of the ground at the last minute and just made it to the start. In the race itself, at least Peyron and Bullimore didn't have a chance because of the lack of preparation. The same fate would threaten them against the extremely well-prepared Olivier de Kersauson.
In the next few weeks the final decision should be made as to whether the Oryx Cup will take place at all, because the race is planned to be canceled if at least three ships do not come to the starting line. And Tracy Edwards is still a long way from that.