Spirit of Canada hits hard times

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Vendee Globe competitor Derek Hatfield says the Spirit of Canada
campaign has been forced to turn over the Open 60 to their lender
because of financial issues.

"For the past three months we have been negotiating with [the lenders]
to turn the boat over for the outstanding amount of the loan. This
arrangement is bitter sweet to say the least but a move in the right
direction," says Hatfield in an open letter.

"With a crushing $1.2 million loan outstanding on the Open 60 and
a requirement to repay it within 6 months after the end of the Vendee
Globe; I was finding it difficult to make positive decisions required
to move forward with the campaign," writes Hatfield.

See the full text of his letter below:

* From Derek Hatfield: Hello from Spirit of Canada

Well, where do I start. The last six months has been the most difficult
period in the entire 13 years of the Spirit of Canada campaign. I have
delayed this status report numerous times in order to be able to report
something positive as we have worked our way through a very difficult
period.

Back in January and after seven difficult weeks in
Hobart, Australia without finding the budget to ship Spirit of Canada
back home, I left Hobart on the Open 60 with the idea of heading back
to France on my own hoping that the repairs to the mast and electronics
were complete. It very quickly became apparent that we had not
completely gotten the bugs out of the autopilots. Facing a cold and
hard slog around the Horn late in the season and without proper
autopilots, I made the difficult decision to head for New Zealand where
I knew qualified people were waiting to help.

Mentally and
physically, I was exhausted from the retirement from the Vendee Globe
and the setbacks of the repairs. With a crushing 1.2 million dollar
loan outstanding on the Open 60 and a requirement to repay it within 6
months after the end of the Vendee Globe; I was finding it difficult to
make positive decisions required to move forward with the campaign. The
hunt for new sponsors has proved fruitless in the global recession that
is now upon us. It was now late in the season and Cape Horn was getting
less and less plausible as a route and the Panama Canal seemed to be
the most reasonable route now backs to the Northern Hemisphere.

I
left the boat in Auckland and returned to Canada as the financial
realities started to sink in and it became obvious that we did not have
the financial wherewithal to maintain the Open 60. Discussions
commenced with the lender and for the past three months we have been
negotiating with them to turn the boat over for the outstanding amount
of the loan. This arrangement is bitter sweet to say the least but a
move in the right direction. As of the end of June, the Open 60 belongs
to a fellow Canadian. I am not certain at this time what the plans are
for the Open 60 or if I will be involved with it but I very proud that
the boat will continue to be of Canadian registry.

As
you can imagine, the Vendee Globe did not finish the way we expected.
Only 11 of the original 30 competitors managed to complete the course.
I know a lot of people are as disappointed as we are with the results.
I am hugely disappointed and I feel it is unfinished business. I am
constantly overwhelmed with the positive emails and the support that we
have received from Canadians across the country. When I'm feeling a bit
discouraged, I go back and read the emails, as they are full of
encouragement and kind words. I want to thank everyone for those
emails; without them, I feel that things would be a lot more difficult.
Again, thank you for all your support and I look forward to thanking
you all in person when the opportunity presents itself in the future.

At
this point, I am in the Maritimes with the family and starting to think
about future sailing projects. I have started to write a book about the
past two around the world races (the Around Alone 2002 and the Vendee
Globe 2008) to honor our sponsors and the individuals that have
supported Spirit of Canada over the past 13 years. We are also planning
to do a number of appearances and speaking engagements in the upcoming
months.

The team and I have learned so much about
professional sailing campaigns over the past 13 years that we are
committed to continue with Spirit of Canada. We are beginning to work
towards an exciting new campaign and I will be announcing the details
of the next Spirit of Canada project in the next few months.

I hope that you are enjoying the summer. Happy Sailing. Take care.

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