TEAM SUN HUNG KAI /SCALLYWAG

Sailing World - - The Volvo Ocean Race -

The fleet of Volvo Ocean 65s may be stamped from the same molds, but the race’s Hong Kong en­try will bear lit­tle re­sem­blance to its neigh­bors come dock-out time in Ali­cante, Spain, in Oc­to­ber. There’s noth­ing re­motely com­mer­cial about this squad, which in many ways harkens back to the early days of the Whit­bread Race: a bunch of salty sailors from the land Down Un­der sail­ing for an owner and a bit of glory.

The lo­gos of Sun Hung Kai, a global Hong Kong-based con­glom­er­ate, are dis­creetly placed about the boat, but it’s the squad’s iden­tity as Team Scallywag that they in­tend to be known as. Be­fit­ting the yacht’s name, they’re a mis­chievous band of blokes, says the team’s 47-yearold Aus­tralian skip­per, David Witt, be­holden to only them­selves and their 42-year-old backer Seng Huang Lee. Lee, says Witt, is the real deal — a Malaysian-born fa­ther of four with hard Aus­tralian ac­cent and a thirst for ocean racing.

For the sail­ing team, Witt has re­cruited from Lee’s Syd­ney-based 100-foot maxi of the same name. With the late July ad­di­tion of Luke Parkin­son, who won the pre­vi­ous edi­tion with Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, Witt in­tends to set off with a crew of seven. They will be — at least ini­tially — the only team to go with a bare min­i­mum set of hands.

“I’ve picked only driv­ers, es­pe­cially going with seven,” says Witt. “The main pri­or­ity is that they have to be able to drive the boat re­ally fast, and be good mates. We haven’t struc­tured it like most of the other teams where we might have only four on deck at one stage, or only two de­pend­ing on the con­di­tions. We might be wrong and re­al­ize we need an­other set of hands, but we’re going into it with a strat­egy that the boats are un­der­pow­ered and heavy for what they are, and the only per­for­mance de­ci­sion we can make these days is with the peo­ple, so we’re going lighter.”

Witt ex­pects they will be bet­ter off in the first part of the race. “I think we have bet­ter driv­ers, and the fact that we go into the Southern Ocean a few more times than the past few edi­tions suits us fa­vor­ably as well,” he says, “but we also cross the equa­tor four times in this race, so that means there will be more mar­ginal con­di­tions, which means we have our strat­egy right by be­ing lighter than ev­ery­one else.”

Witt also sees the ad­van­tage of be­ing free of the com­mer­cial de­mands of a ti­tle spon­sor and all the dis­trac­tions that come with it. As far as he’s con­cerned, Team Scallywag is sim­ply a scaled-down ver­sion of its 100-footer, and they’re ap­proach­ing the round-the-world cam­paign as they would a Syd­ney Ho­bart.

“[In Lis­bon] I was sur­prised by how easy the 65 is to sail com­pared with the 100, and it’s nice to be able to move a sail with two or three blokes and not 15,” he says, adding that the big boat’s shore team is at his dis­posal as well. “We have a lot of re­sources peo­ple don’t know about, and this [Volvo cam­paign] is cheaper than the 100, to be hon­est.”

“We’ll treat ev­ery leg dif­fer­ently and not get caught up in the over­all pic­ture of where we are. We’re Aussies, we’re sim­ple peo­ple, and we like to keep it sim­ple.”

PHOTO : RICARDO PINTO / V O LV O C C E A N R A C E

Aus­tralian skip­per David Witt brings along with him a core crew from his Hong Kong owner’s 100-foot, Syd­ney­based maxi pro­gram.

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