Without a British campaign to lead, the Spanish state tobacco company contract offers Smith the next best thing and so pays an extraordinary tribute to the 1992 Olympic bronze medallist and his team.
Apart from putting Smith into the pay bracket of Premier League footballers, most of the key crew positions will also go to members of a team he has built in eight years at the top. These are likely to include the navigator, Vincent Geeke, his team-mate from Smith's Rothmans campaign in the last Whitbread, Shag Moreton, and the crewmen, Paul Standbridge, and David Powys. Three to five of the 16 may still be Spanish.
'The decision hasn't been made, but we hope it will be made final this week,' Javier Visiers, the project manager and designer, said last night. 'There are other proposals for the Fortuna board to consider, but if the board decides Smith should be skipper I will be quite happy.'
The sail development programme will continue to be in the hands of Peter Bateman at North Sails UK, bolstered by wind-tunnel experiments at Southampton University. The yacht has been modified, with the help of the British- based designer Tony Castro. Other work has been carried out at Rob Lipsett's Vision Yachts in Cowes. If Smith takes over, Fortuna will be brought to Hamble from Palma for further modifications.
Meanwhile, Iain Macdonald- Smith yesterday took over as project manager for the cash- starved Dolphin Circumnavigation project, which has built a new Rob Humphreys-designed Whitbread 60ft boat. James Hatfield remains as skipper. The project, which has full charitable status, is still short of at least pounds 1m.
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