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From war-torn Iraq to the America’s Cup, Valencia


From war-torn Iraq to Valencia and the America’s Cup

(5 June 2006, Valencia) Just a week ago he was a security consultant in Iraq, in 50°C, bullet-proof vest and constantly armed.

Now Nathan Hislop, 31, has joined Victory Challenge.

After more than two years in the violence in Iraq he has chosen to return to sailing.
“I have been in contact with the team since Auckland, and it’s always been an ambition and a dream to come back.”

Nathan Hislop is a grinder and has the muscles and the maximum endurance that’s needed.

“I continued training during my time in Iraq to keep myself in top form.”

Ahead of the challengers’ series, the Louis Vuitton Cup, in Auckland 2002/2003, he was one of Victory Challenge’s sparring grinders. The nationality rules at that time meant that they weren’t available for the team on the America’s Cup boat in the regatta. But they had a professional attitude, pressured the team and made it perform better.

The nationality rules have been relaxed for the 32nd America’s Cup.

“So my aim is to be able to sail in one of the acts or in the Louis Vuitton Cup next year,” says Nathan Hislop.

He is part of the continuing recruitment of sailors ahead of the two-boat training that Victory Challenge starts in July after the next pre-regatta, the Valencia Louis Vuitton Act 12.

Nathan Hislop is from New Zealand. But he began sailing late, when he was more than 20 years old, due to a knee injury that meant that he couldn’t continue playing rugby.

It has long been a New Zealand tradition that rugby players have been recruited as grinders for racing boats.

When Nathan Hislop started as sparring grinder with Victory Challenge he came from a position as grinder on the specially made racing yacht ”Georgia”, a Farr 53 Grand Prix Custom Racing Yacht, designed by Bruce Farr on commission of the New Zealand businessman and lawyer, James Farmer.

It was to “Georgia” that he returned after Victory Challenge, as well as to commercial diving and jobs as a security and body-guard. The latter job was a result of more than six years’ service in the New Zealand army. He was a corporal and worked as a diver, with boats and with explosives.

It was this background that took him to Iraq after the invasion.

“The security consultants that I worked for were given jobs in Iraq, helping local authorities."

There have been risky jobs in Baghdad, Basra, Falluja and Ramadi. It has not been possible to carry them out without being armed. Nathan Hislop has had his pistol, a Glock, his assault rifle, a SIG 552, and another gun, a FN FAL 7.62. One of his colleagues has been killed and others have been injured.

“I’ve been lucky,” is his comment.

On Wednesday 31 May he left the troubles in Iraq. He drove the border with Kuwait. Then flew from Kuwait to Valencia.

It is difficult to imagine a greater contrast between jobs and surroundings.


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