Grant Dalton tipped as one of the international skippers to contest The Race

Top ocean racing yachtsman Grant Dalton was tonight tipped as one of the international skippers to contest a $US2 million non-stop round-the-world event, known simply as The Race, starting on December 31, next year.

A press conference in Paris on Thursday will reveal the name of a New Zealand skipper, the boat and the sponsor of the latest catamaran for The Race.

French sources quietly suggested today that Dalton was hot favourite to be appointed skipper of one of the catamarans, known only at this stage as Code Zero.

In Paris last year, Dalton said the “world has never seen a race of this type or boats of this size ever before. “These are seriously big boats and are a whole new dimension. They are twice the length of an America’s Cup boat and their multi-hulls will be seen flying through Cook Strait in early 2001.”

The massive boats will be 25 metres wide, spread over two or three hulls and the mainsails will be 2-1/2 times the size of an America’s Cup mainsail which will have them flying along at over 40 knots.

The history of the race goes back five years when the holder of the Jules Verne Trophy 1993, Bruno Peyron, became the first man to sail around the world in less than 80 days.

Peyron has become the race organiser of The Race even though his record was beaten a few years ago by Sir Peter Blake, who did it in 74 days. The record now stands at 71 days 14 hours.

Dalton believes The Race can be won in 65 days because of the newer generation of boats which have developed out of sight since Sir Francis Chichester sailed single-handed 27 years ago.

The catch phrase of The Race is “no limits”. Dalton said he could offer places on board, if he starts, to some of the Team New Zealand America’s Cup crew.

The Race is being dubbed in France as the extreme yachting event of the third millennium because in Europe they see the millennium starting at the end of 2000.