Eddie Jordan: behind the wheel, by Tristan Rutherford

Camper & Nicholsons SEA+I Magazine, October 2019

Sunday 30th August 1998 was a day Eddie Jordan will never forget. The F1 team boss overlooked a sodden Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium’s Ardennes Forest. For the fastest cars of Michael Schumacher and David Coulthard, the pouring rain was deemed a threat. For the Jordan Grand Prix drivers of Ralf Schumacher and Damon Hill, the hellish weather offered a roll of the dice. 

 

As any F1 fan will attest, Belgium’s Spa circuit guarantees action from the get-go. It is motor racing’s longest, twistiest and frequently fastest track. As Eddie Jordan notes in his autobiography, An Independent Man, the circuit “sorts the men from the boys”. Not least as parts are driven at 300kmh. 

 

In the 1998 race, Coulthard spun on the first lap. His crash led to a chain reaction that squeezed Eddie Irvine, Jos Verstappen and other favourites into the saturated grass. After further pile-ups, a fire and more torrential rain, only six cars from a field of 20 were left running. Jordan’s two racers took the chequered flag in first and second place. The party carried on all night.  

 

That specific Grand Prix mirrors the life and times of Eddie Jordan. The Belgian race had ups and downs. It saw the arrogance of wealthy players wither in the pouring rain. It saw millions of dollars go up in smoke, with millions more gambled on a slithering tarmac track. It saw a young Irishman take on the big boys against all the odds. And win. 

 

Edmund Patrick Jordan was raised in the Dublin suburb of Dartry. He was “fantastically good at maths”. Young Eddie followed a banking career until a strike in 1970 inspired a summer working trip to Jersey. Here the 22-year-old discovered karting - the sport that kick-started the careers of world champions Sebastian Vettel, Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton. Jordan never looked back. Multiple jobs were worked to pay for travel, competition fuel and spare parts. In his own words: “Racing was the beginning and the end. Nothing else mattered.” 

 

Over the next two decades Jordan won every trophy going. He had £5m in the bank and could have retired comfortably in the South of France. But the siren call of speed proved too strong. “Every penny” was pitched on designing, engineering and testing a car to take on Ferrari, McLaren and Williams. “In 1990 the company name was changed from Eddie Jordan Racing to Jordan Grand Prix,” recalled the F1 boss. “We were committed.”

 

Budgetary requirements dictated a roster of fast, if frenetic, drivers at Jordan Grand Prix. The flamboyant Italian Andrea de Cesaris rarely troubled his brake pedal. So much so that he set the fastest lap in the 1991 Mexican Grand Prix. The Italian was soon up to fourth place behind the McLaren of Ayrton Senna. Alas, his ravenous fuel consumption caused the car to run out of gas “just short of the chequered flag”. Jordan takes up the story: “Urged on by me, (de Cesaris) began to push the car towards the line. According to the rule book we should have been excluded. We claimed that, had the car been left where it was, it would have been a hazard to other drivers sweeping out of the very fast final corner.” Sheer guile let Jordan Grand Prix hang on to their fourth place points despite protests from other teams. 

 

The other Jordan Grand Prix driver in 1991 was devil-may-care Frenchman Bertrand Gachot. That season he became a regular points scorer and even took time out to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance race. However, Gachot was imprisoned following a road rage incident in London - on the eve of that year’s Belgian Grand Prix. An untried rookie named Michael Schumacher was drafted in as his last-minute replacement. Fortune favours the brave. Jordan finished their inaugural season fifth in the Constructors Championship. Through 15 successive seasons the team also gave a break to newcomers Rubens Barrichello, Giancarlo Fisichella and Eddie Irvine, as well as Schumacher’s younger brother Ralf. 

 

F1 team owners have long found sanctuary in a private yacht. Jordan’s first luxury vessel, a Sunseeker Manhattan, provided such a “place of escape” to conduct discreet negotiations or evade the camera’s glare. His sailing dream took flight when Jordan took a back seat from F1. “When 20 Formula 1 cars stormed off the grid in Melbourne on 6 March 2005, the only sound I could hear was the gentle lapping of water against the hull of a yacht,” he recalls. He and his wife Marie were on a Perini Navi off Dubai. The trip inspired the purchase of 45m Blush, another Perini Navi, and therefore “a great sailing boat and very stable at sea”. 

 

Needless to say, Blush was built to win regattas. If her performance in the Perini Navi Cup - a sprint from Porto Cervo to Sardinia’s Maddalena Islands - is any guide, her bright red hull can rifle through the Mediterranean at Lewis Hamilton speeds. It’s frequently guests from the motor racing world, “like David Coulthard or Alain Prost,” that have urged Jordan to unfurl the spinnaker.  

 

The key to the Perini Navi sailing yacht? “Flexibility,” says Jordan. “It’s different to a motorboat. It has increased my desire for boating and the love of the sea.” A uniquely adaptable cabin layout adds to its charter allure. The maritime chic master cabin can be divided into two rooms using a removable mahogany wall. There’s an additional VIP double. Plus two twin rooms which can be convertible to doubles. Or even triples with Pullman beds, allowing 12 guests to be accommodated in all.  

 

As his autobiography proves, Jordan is a fun-loving socialite. This renders Blush a yacht dedicated to leisure and pleasure. The forward tender pit has been converted into the ultimate chill out zone with plush cushions, a speaker system and chilled beers on demand. Inside Blush has three distinct areas including a sophisticated bar, a formal dining and lounge. Paired with a recent refit are photographs shot with Marie Jordan’s Canon, including cheetahs, lions and kingfishers snapped on their global sailing tour. Such an array of space charms all. “At Monaco or Barcelona we have a different market,” explains Jordan. “While in the Perini Navi Cup we had 50 people in the cockpit drinking Champagne and having fun.” 

 

“Invariably (the largest charter group) is families,” says Jordan. “That’s fine because we have four kids and a tribe of grandkids and they all want to jump off the side of the boat.” At anchor, Blush’s mast pulls to one side, such that guests can dive right in. The swimming platforms and rear transom offer further water access.  “What I love particularly is the safety,” says the former F1 team boss, who was responsible for two drivers and hundreds of staff at Jordan Grand Prix. “You’re sitting around the boat and the kids are playing with all the toys but you can actually see them.” 

 

Any future plans for Blush? “I was very lucky to circumnavigate the world so that’s no longer on the bucket list,” says Jordan. “My favourite destination is Corsica, just six hours away.” Croatia and Montenegro are also “wonderful”, while Kefalonia “is a favorite place, Paxos and Antipaxos too”. All of these destinations are on the charter itinerary during 2020.  “You can never forget the tranquility and magnificent waters of Turkey,” concludes Jordan. “We spent six weeks sailing there last year and loved it.” The hardest working man in F1 has finally taken his foot off the pedal. 

Tristan Rutherford is a leading yacht writer for Camper & Nicholsons SEA+I and Boat International Magazine.