UK charter company, Sunsail, launched the Industry Sailing Challenge 2002 and introduced its new fleet of 40 identical, Jacques Fauroux-designed, Jeanneau Sun Fast 37s, which will be used for the event, on January 8 at the London Boat Show.

The 2002 Industry Sailing Challenge, which Sunsail expects to attract over 1,000 competitors with 20 to 25 boats, will be sailed over five rounds between 21 and 30 May.

The first three boats from each round go through to the grand final over the weekend of 13 and 14 July. Sunsail said it has individual sponsors for the challenge rounds, including BAE Systems, Ricardo PLC, Panasonic Consumer Electronics and Sony Videoconferencing.

Large and small companies may take part, and companies with non-experienced staff can take along a Sunsail skipper to give them an equal opportunity to win, said Sunsail.
The 2002 event will follow last year's format of heats with two circumnavigations of the Isle of Wight, with the final over two inshore races and a single circumnavigation of the island.

Crews are restricted to a maximum of six, making racing hard work, said Sunsail, as the boats usually race with a crew of eight.

Former competitors include British Airways, IBM, Marks & Spencer, Cap Gemini, Ernst & Young, Microsoft, Deutsche Bank and Porsche. Last year's event was won by the UK's electrical distribution company, the National Grid, from a record entry of more than 100 companies.

"This year's Industry Sailing Challenge is likely to be more competitive than ever," said Andy Howard, Sunsail's sales and marketing director. "As a competition, it is unique. It combines strength, teamwork, skill and the building of trust and confidence in each of the crews taking part."