Great American III, an Open 60 and an early entry for the 2008 Vendee Globe Race, was launched in Portland, Maine, on Aug. 1, 2007. GAIII hit the water at the Maine Yacht Center and then was hauled out at Gowen Marine on Commercial Street so that its mast and keel could be fitted using Gowen’s Travelift.
Previously named Solidaire and skippered by Thierry Dubois, the boat was built in 2000 and competed in two Vendee Globe challenges. Marblehead, Mass.-based skipper Rich Wilson acquired the boat and plans to compete in the 2008 race after a 10-month refit at the Maine Yacht Center in Portland that began in September 2006. GAIII will be the second Vendee Globe competitor to be refit in a Maine yard. Bruce Schwab, the first American to complete the race, had his boat Ocean Planet refitted at Portland Yacht Services. The only other American to compete in the race was Mike Plant. He was lost at sea in October of 1992 while enroute to France to compete in the 1993-1994 race aboard Coyote.
The refit was extensive and involved virtually every system on the boat. Repairs were made to the stem and the hard dodger was extended aft. All major systems including the engine and electronics have been replaced and a new deck layout now has all control lines leading aft to a new pedestal and grinder. The entire nav station was cut out and rebuilt using lightweight composite and cored materials, and modifications were made to the canting keel.
Wilson has yet to have the boat certified by the race organizers but he does not anticipate any problems. The U.S.’s sole representative in the in the 2008 race, Wilson will be competing against 27 boats.