World race in trouble

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The Independent Online

A crisis meeting is to be held next week in Switzerland to consider plans for the Grand Mistral round-the-world race, set up as a rival to the Whitbread and scheduled to start from Marseilles in September this year.

So far entries have been slow to materialise for a concept which involves the organiser and Whitbread veteran, Pierre Fehlmann, building a fleet of identical 80ft yachts to be chartered to competing syndicates. Ludde Ingvall of Finland has taken delivery while the New Zealander, Grant Dalton, the winner of the maxi class in the last Whitbread, will skipper an entry funded by Fehlmann's backer, Philip Morris. However, the Frenchman Marc Pajot has lost the support of Ricard and is struggling to find the necessary funds for a demanding campaign which will take the yachts to South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Argentina and the United States.

Expectations that Chris Dickson would team up again with Tag Heuer have not materialised. A Russian syndicate has appeared with some funds, but not enough, and a race organisation spokesman, Hans Bernhard, has said that the banks which have been backing the building of eight yachts are asking for more information on whether a pledge, made at London's Boat Show in January, to see up to 10 yachts on the start line will be fulfilled.