The 1993-94 edition of the race was Ross Field’s third consecutive outing in the round-the-world event. He raced on NZL Enterprise in the 1986-1987 Whitbread and was Peter Blake’s right-hand man on the all-conquering maxi ketch Steinlager 2 which won the 1989-90 race.
The next edition however threatened to be remembered for the wrong reasons. It was the year the Whitbread became a two tier event between the maxi class and the newly designed ocean racer, the light and fast Whitbread 60s – and competitors were not happy about the arrangement of sailing together.
Grant Dalton was overall the fastest around and would take the maxi class, but after a difficult start it was Field who skippered Yamaha to victory in the W60, in 120d 14h 55m. “It wasn't looking good in Auckland,” Field reported afterwards. "We had a bad first leg and the second was mediocre and I realised that we had to do something about it.” The crucial turning point for Yamaha's fortunes came in the fifth leg, from Punta del Este to Fremantle, when the previous overall leader Tokio lost her mast and with it the race. A bold move through the Doldrums to overtake Intrum Justitia sealed Yamaha’s victory.
Field’s next outing in the race was on board America’s Challenge, which did not end so happily. She was forced to retire after finishing the first leg to Cape Town in 7th place with financial problems which meant continuing was impossible.
But if there’s one man who’s capable of enticing corporate sponsorship it’s Ross Field who interestingly, started sailing full time in 1985 after a first career as a policeman in Wanganui, New Zealand. For the 2001-02 race, he successfully secured the sponsorship of News Corps after just one meeting with Rupert Murdoch.
Field originally planned to run the team from shore but came on board as navigator with Jez Fanstone as skipper after the boat’s lacklustre performance at the 2000 Sydney Hobart. Field pulled out of the 6th leg suffering a bad back but Team News Corps eventually finished in 5th place.
His son has kept up the family’s association with the Volvo Ocean Race – Campbell was the shore manager for the Telefonica team in the 2008-09 event.
Field senior has also been a keen short-handed racer, and has done several Melbourne-Osaka races. Of the Volvo Ocean race, he says: “It’s the fastest boat and the fastest crew that will win, but you’ve got to finish to win.”