Sailing: My shipmates: Gordon Maguire gives the inside story on the Silk Cut crew

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The Independent Online
Lawrie Smith

Our fearless leader needs little introduction as he has spearheaded so many successful campaigns. He commands total respect through his ability to win a race in any boat from an 18ft skiff to an 80ft maxi. He pushes himself harder than everyone else and when he goes to the edge he knows his crew will be right behind him.

Stu Bannatyne

The token New Zealander and my opposite in the other watch. He sailed on New Zealand Endeavour in the last Whitbread and so knows what it's like to win this race. His laid-back approach instils confidence in me so that I can sleep easily when I hand over to him at the end of each watch.

Steve Hayles

Navigator and youngest crew member at 24. He brings an in-depth knowledge of computers and electronics to the boat which will be essential to keep our satellite communications links with the outside world. He monitors boat performance 24 hours a day with the on-board computers. We also rely on him for the crucial weather routing - part of his preparation has involved intensive meteorological training.

Neal McDonald

The one with the hair. Despite the hippy appearance, he has a first-class honours degree in naval architecture and has been instrumental in the design and detail of the rig. His main duties are as a driver (helmsman) and sail-trimmer. Neal is particularly keen to beat EF, as his girlfriend Lisa is sailing with their all-female team.

Craig 'Lightning' Nutter

Remembered by all who meet him as a powerhouse of energy and enthusiasm. Has a wealth of sailing experience although this will be his first Whitbread. The on-board engineer with responsibility for keeping the engine, the de-salinator, the generator and the pumps in working order. Without the de-salinator we have no fresh water, without the generator we have no electricity and without the pumps we can't transfer water ballast from one side of the boat to the other, so Craig has a hefty responsibility. Just as well he has big shoulders.

Jan Dekker

The strong silent type. Born in France but has spent most of his life in South Africa where he served in the merchant marine. He has a commercial diver's licence so he is the man to go overboard if we get weed trapped round the keel or, as happened in the recent Fastnet race, get snagged on a lobster pot. Jan's other job is as bowman, which can entail him climbing 23 metres aloft into the rigging with the boat pitching and rolling beneath him to free halyards or clip on sails.

Jason Carrington

The other bowman, who has also been responsible for overseeing the fitting out of the boat over the last few months. His attention to detail and desire for perfection have resulted in a superbly prepared boat. He is a boat-builder by trade and will be called upon to carry out running repairs during the race.

Adrian 'Ado' Stead

Helmsman-trimmer and also the on-board medic. Has had training in essential medical procedures such as putting in stitches and giving injections. If anyone develops toothache or appendicitis it will be up to Ado to sort it out, backed up by telephone assistance from a doctor. Quite a challenge for someone who started out life as a chartered accountant.

Jeremy 'Jez' Fanstone

Could be described as a Jack of all Trades - driver, trimmer, mastman, sail-maker and fitness trainer. When a sail is torn it will be dragged down below and Jez will stitch it back together with the lightweight sewing machine that we carry. Jez has been responsible for developing our training regime for the last eight months. This has been concentrating on building upper-body strength for hoisting the sails, stamina to withstand fatigue during the long, hard six-hour watches in the Southern Ocean and flexibility to avoid muscle strain injuries.

Tim Powell

Another all-rounder but also burdened with the unenviable job of stocking the boat with provisions for 12 men for up to a month at a time. He can't afford to miscalculate and have either too much or too little food - the former means extra weight while the latter means rationing and hunger. Both are extremely unpopular. Tim and I are on-board cameramen and have been trusted with a state-of-the-art digital camera to allow us to send photographs back home by satellite.

Neil Graham

Born in Australia and hence it made sense to send him back there to oversee the construction of the boat in Sydney. He was our man on-site, co-ordinating between the crew in England and the boatyard whenever changes to the original design were required. At 42 he is the oldest crew member but can still keep pace. This is his third Whitbread so he brings a wealth of knowledge and experience. His main duties are as a trimmer.

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