A MATTER OF HONOUR
Good Morning Istvan,
I note that after 263 days alone with your thoughts at sea and another 48 hours on land following your arrival in Les Sables, you still have not felt it appropriate to make contact with your sponsor. The 48 hour period is significant, of course, because that is the deadline my legal people and I set you – via your team of Ian Gumprecht, Eva Kovacz and Robert Farrelly – in our letter of the 5th of March 2019 to return to us the Windpilot equipment placed at your disposal. I see from the GGR Facebook page that you were “in a hurry” to leave Les Sables after the finish and it seems (according to Don McIntyre) that your boat is now up for sale.
Since you have declined any direct contact with me since the start in Les Sables, this open letter format is unfortunately the only way I can try to communicate with you.
I’ve written about the technical issues with Puffin previously:
I don’t intend to dwell on the human side of our encounter. I have been taught an unwelcome lesson in the sunk cost fallacy and that is that. The GGR podcasts tell the story of your ups and downs during the race. Nevertheless, I do not pretend to understand how you have seen fit to behave as you have and cannot excuse your lack of basic decency and respect towards me and my business.
I was struck by your claim in your post-race press conference that all of your problems in the race stemmed from not having a big enough budget. You raised over $ 25,000.00 through your “I have been chosen as one of 30 of the world’s most elite sailors” fund-raising page, which is the target you set, and yet even at race’s end you appear not to realise that there are more important things in life and sailing than money.
For me, recovering my Windpilot equipment from you is first and foremost a matter of honour. I never expected you to pay for it, but I did expect you to earn it. Instead, I have seen my contribution to your campaign – my hardware and my own personal investment in time and effort – casually cashed in whenever you happened to need a scapegoat.
I very much hope the sailing media will decide at some point that the GGR 2018 and the stories it has produced merit closer inspection. So far, all news has come more or less directly from the race press office, which is obviously constrained in what it can report and has tended to content itself with just reproducing the word from the boats. That the boats are stuck in a time warp is of course the whole point of the race, but windvane technology has moved on apace since RKJ’s day and the moment is ripe for critical, independent journalists to look again at the self-steering question uninhibited by old myths and personal prejudices. Their readers deserve nothing less.
I felt the message of the “Fall Guy” article published on the Windpilot Blog on the 16th of July last year was quite clear and I very much hoped it would get through to you and your team. You could have owned up to the oversights in your planning, as others have done, but instead you carried on flogging the dead horse and trying to reassign the blame. Surely now that you have completed the challenge, made it all the way around and returned to Les Sables a success, you can manage to set the record straight? As a matter of honour?
You received from me not just the Windpilot system delivered to you in the US, but also the same extensive package of spare parts – including a complete spare Windpilot system – that we supplied to all five of our Windpilot racers to help all of us sleep easier during the race. When we supplied this equipment to you, Abhilash, Igor, Antoine and Tapio in Les Sables ahead of the start, it was agreed that you would return it to us after the race. There were no contracts or signatures involved: we trusted everyone to keep their word.
Your comments to the media give the impression that you steered by hand for the whole nine months. Anyone who makes a mark on a venture like the GGR must be tough, but even the toughest and most committed competitor cannot have maintained race mode for nine months with no sleep, so who was at the wheel when you were not? Photos of Puffin approaching the finish and alongside in Les Sables are plentiful – and they show two healthy Windpilot systems on the transom and pontoon.
I must finish with a quick reminder of the legal position: I still retain ownership of the Windpilot equipment aboard Puffin and that will remain the case even if the rest of the boat should be sold.
Hamburg, 24th March 2019