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History

The Transat CIC - solo ocean racing at its purest. It's a challenge punctuated by a succession of lows that sweep across the North Atlantic and generate headwinds, the great feature of this race. In the beginning, the record for the crossing was around 40 days. Today, the greatest solo specialists at the helm of the fastest boats can cover the same distance in just 8 days.

40 DAYS

12 HOURS

30 MIN

1960

The very beginnings

PLYMOUTH

NEW YORK

5 COMPETITORS

VAINQUEUR :

FRANCIS CHICHESTER

BATEAU :

GYPSY MOTH |||

FRANCIS CHICHESTER

The Transat was born from a bet between a handful of British sailors to know if they are able to cross the Atlantic alone and in how long. Among them, Sir Francis Chichester and Blondie Hasler. The concept imagined in 1960 was first criticized, mocked and considered senseless. The very idea of a solo sailing race is revolutionary and almost unprecedented at the time, but these men have a goal and they are determined.

Blondie Hasler is looking for sponsors for the race, but in 1959, no one is ready to support him (and his crazy idea). Finally, The Observer took the plunge, and in 1960, under the direction of the Royal Western Yacht Club of England, the Observer Single-handed Trans-Atlantic Race, or OSTAR, was organized.

Surprisingly 115 people show their intention to participate in the race, 50 apply for registration, but only eight boats are officially registered and five start in Plymouth.

At the time, there was no satellite navigation system, but only compasses and sextants. Deprived of today’s technological means, sailors have little opportunity to send news to land and as the days go by, concern grows. But after 40 days, 12 hours and 30 minutes of sea, Francis Chichester arrives first in New York. “Every time I tried to go straight to New York, the wind started blowing right into Gipsy Moth’s nose,” Chichester said when he arrived. “It was like trying to reach a door with a man standing in your way, a hose pointed at you.”

Jean Lacome is the last to join Big Apple in 74 days.

This first edition in 1960 is the only one to run without multihull and the only (and unique to date) with an arrival in New York.

27 DAYS

03 HOURS

56 MIN

1964

A legend is born

PLYMOUTH

NEWPORT, RHODE ISLAND

13 COMPETITORS

VAINQUEUR :

ERIC TABARLY

BATEAU :

PEN DUICK II

ERIC TABARLY

The second OSTAR in 1964 was a springboard for one of the most prominent figures in solo sailing: Eric Tabarly. In 1960, Francis Chichester completed the event in 40 days. Four years later, Marine Lieutenant Tabarly, won the race in just 27 days, 3 hours and 56 minutes aboard his 44-foot ketch, Pen Duick II.

When he arrived in Newport, Rhode Island, he was not aware of his victory. He did not use his radio during the race, and as if it were nothing extraordinary, he reveals on arrival that his autopilot system only worked for the first 8 days of the race. The performance of Eric Tabarly contributed greatly to popularizing sailing in France, from which the greatest winners of solo races and The Transat will come in the following years.

Among the outstanding anecdotes of this edition, here is the one reported in the press on June 3, 1964, by the words of the skipper of Ilala, Mike Ellison. “I had started a series of radio contacts with David Lewis on Rehu Moana. I found it both interesting and encouraging to know the problems he was facing, and the weather. One evening, I asked him what he thought of my bread that was starting to rot. He told me that it might have a laxative effect. After that call, I wondered if he was trying to help me or slow me down. I kept eating my bread all the way to America.”

25 DAYS

20 HOURS

33 MIN

1968

The invention (and ban) of routing

PLYMOUTH

NEWPORT, RHODE ISLAND

35 COMPETITORS

VAINQUEUR :

GEOFFREY WILLIAMS

BATEAU :

SIR THOMAS LIPTON

GEOFFREY WILLIAMS

The race takes an international turn with a total of 35 competitors from Sweden, Germany, the United States and South Africa in addition to the usual English and French skippers. That year, the north Atlantic was swept by a huge depression generating winds of more than 60 knots.

Many competitors break down, under torment alone to face terrible conditions. A single participant widens the gap, taking advantage of the race rules that do not prohibit weather routing. Geoffrey Williams, on Sir Thomas Lipton, is the first to use weather routing in racing. Thanks to a large high frequency radio, he can communicate with meteorologists based in Bracknell.

Warned of the storm, Williams chose a northern route. He thus avoided the worst of the depression and gained about 300 miles over his competitors. Williams eventually wins the race, but on subsequent editions weather routing will no longer be allowed. In 1968, no fewer than 13 multihulls were on the starting line, including a 20-metre giant (Pen Duick IV) skippered by Éric Tabarly. But the trimaran suffered from a lack of preparation following the strikes of May 68 and the Frenchman was forced to retire.

Before the storm, the British Eric Willis, aboard Coila, contracted a bacterial infection that made him lose consciousness. He was later able to pick up the pieces from what he was told and recalled calling Radio Halifax with an estimate of his position. Halifax asked him to stay in line, but he went back to lie in his basket and cut off communication. A search was then launched and two rescue helicopters from the Apollo Space program were sent to the area through thick fog. They managed to see the fluorescent orange paint on the 60-foot Coila bridge. Men dive to board the boat and administer emergency medical treatment to the skipper. A rescue ship towed the trimaran to Portland, Maine with a crew member on board who, according to Willis, “stowed my boat and didn’t even drink my whiskey.”

20 DAYS

13 HOURS

15 MIN

1972

The age of multihulls

PLYMOUTH

NEWPORT, RHODE ISLAND

55 COMPETITORS

VAINQUEUR :

ALAIN COLAS

BATEAU :

PEN DUICK IV

ALAIN COLAS

Eric Tabarly’s trimaran, Pen Duick IV, is back in the race with Alain Colas, another figure of French solo sailing. Of the 55 participants, 12 are French, including the first three arrivals.

Sailors are looking to go faster and faster, and the average size of boats is increasing rapidly. A sign of a new era, the rules now impose a minimum size, to deter insecure inscriptions, but no maximum size. The star of the monohulls is Vendredi Treize (skippered by Jean-Yves Terlain), a three-mast schooner of 39 meters, huge for a solo skipper.

Marie-Claude Fauroux (Aloa VII) was the first woman to complete the course. She finished in 14th position after 33 days at sea. Sir Francis Chichester, then 70 years old, starts in Gipsy Moth V, but fails to complete the course of what will be his last race. He died a few months later. Peter Crowther makes the longest crossing in history (88 days) with his old boat Golden Vanity, a 66-year-old auric.

23 DAYS

20 HOURS

12 MIN

1976

Controversy and tragedy

PLYMOUTH

NEWPORT, RHODE ISLAND

125 COMPETITORS

VAINQUEUR :

ERIC TABARLY

BATEAU :

PEN DUICK IV

ERIC TABARLY

Even before the start, the storm raged. Controversy exploded over Alain Colas's participation on the gigantic 236-foot (72-meter) Club Méditerranée monohull. It was hard to imagine that a boat of this size could be safely skippered by just one man, without posing a danger to himself and the other boats. And with 125 boats entered, many feel that the race organization is losing control. The start is overshadowed by the death of Mike McMullen's wife, electrocuted while helping Mike prepare the boat.

During the pre-start formalities, it is also discovered that one of the entrants, David Sandeman, is only 17 years and 176 days old. He is not officially allowed to start the race, but crosses the line after the last boat and sets off across the Atlantic. Halfway across the course, a Russian trawler collided with him in the middle of the night. In the collision, Sanderman dismasted, but the Russians helped him make repairs so that he could continue on his way. Sandeman enters the Guinness Book of Records as the youngest sailor to cross the Atlantic solo from Jersey to Rhode Island.

The race was punctuated by several heavy lows, resulting in a record 50 retirements. Britain's Tony Bullimore was rescued by a nearby ship when his boat was on fire, and England's Mike Flanagan disappeared at sea after falling from his boat Galloping Gael. And let's not forget the sad fate of Mike McMullen aboard Three Cheers. Thinking that his wife would have liked to see him cross the Atlantic, he took the start of the race, but was never seen again.


Eric Tabarly won the race in 23 days, 20 hours and 12 minutes. Clare Francis finished 13th and improved the women's solo Atlantic crossing record by three days.

17 DAYS

23 HOURS

12 MIN

1980

The triumph of multihulls

PLYMOUTH

NEWPORT, RHODE ISLAND

110 COMPETITORS

VAINQUEUR :

PHILIP WELD

BATEAU :

MOXIE

PHILIP WELD

The race is once again dominated by multihulls. The first five places go to trimarans and the event marks the end of the equity between monohulls and multihulls. Following the 1976 edition, the organizers imposed a restriction on the length of the boats, now up to 56 feet (17m), and on the number of participants, limited to 110 boats. Ninety competitors take the start of this 6th edition which is marked by a clear decrease in participation of the French, dissatisfied with the new rules.

The race continues to innovate with the first use of the Argos satellite positioning system. This technology allows to follow the progress of the boats remotely and can also be used for distress calls, a method still widely used on offshore races today.

The American Phil Weld wins this edition, which is only his second participation. His Moxie trimaran had been specially built for the race, at the limit of 56 feet (17 meters). He set a new record in 18 days (five less than the previous one) and his victory is all the more remarkable as he is the dean of the event (65 years). A total of sixty-seven boats crossed the finish line.

16 DAYS

06HOURS

25 MIN

1984

Poupon's tears

PLYMOUTH

NEWPORT, RHODE ISLAND

91 COMPETITORS

VAINQUEUR :

YVON FAUCONNIER

BATEAU :

UMUPRO JARDIN V

YVON FAUCONNIER

The departure of the 1984 edition is very lively. From day one, the fleet underwent a series of dismasting in very strong winds and several skippers get time compensation for having rescued other competitors. But that year we only talk about the capsizing of Philippe Jeantot (Crédit Agricole) in the middle of the Atlantic, because the accident poses a problem on arrival.

Philippe Poupon (Fleury Michon) is indeed the first to cross the finish line in Newport after 16 days, 11 hours and 55 minutes of race, but it is Yvon Fauconnier (Umupro Jardin) who is declared the winner for having spent 16 hours to rescue Jeantot. His arrival time then falls to 16 days, 6 hours and 25 minutes, five hours better than Poupon. Philippe Poupon, who learns the news in the middle of the press conference dedicated to his victory, cannot hide his immense disappointment and tears melt.

At the finish, eight of the top ten competitors are French, and only the 10th boat is not a multihull. These top ten skippers completed the race in less than 17 days. The race became a transatlantic sprint.

10 DAYS

09 HOURS

15 MIN

1988

Whales in sight

PLYMOUTH

NEWPORT, RHODE ISLAND

95 COMPETITORS

VAINQUEUR :

PHILIPPE POUPON

BATEAU :

FLEURY MICHON

PHILIPPE POUPON

There were 95 participants in 1988. The trend was towards electronics, weather files, and autopilots. The solo sailor no longer only has to be an excellent sailor and a courageous competitor, he also has to master computer tools.

Following the exceptional conditions on the Atlantic, Philippe Poupon follows a direct route throughout the course, breaking his own record that falls to 10 days, 9 hours and 15 minutes, the equivalent of the orthodromic route at an average speed of 11 knots.

One of the most incredible stories of this edition is that of the many whales crossed by the fleet. Mike Birch sees his FujiColor trimaran severely damaged following a collision with one of them. And a few days later, the Briton David Sellings finds himself surrounded by a shoal of 50 to 60 whales for three days, before finally being attacked. Sellings has just enough time to grab a few things and inflate his life raft before seeing his boat sink. 'It was terrifying,' he later admitted on board the German freighter that came to rescue him.

11 DAYS

01 HOURS

35 MIN

1992

A path strewn with pitfalls

PLYMOUTH

NEWPORT, RHODE ISLAND

76 COMPETITORS

VAINQUEUR :

LOÏCK PEYRON

BATEAU :

FUJICOLOR

LOÏCK PEYRON

Sixty-seven boats depart from Europe 1 STAR. Loïck Peyron (FujiColor) is a favourite among French runners who now dominate the sport.

In the first week, no leader really emerges. It is then difficult to make predictions, especially because of the adverse weather conditions at the start and because the fleet is scattered across the Atlantic. Joyon heads north, Vatine heads south and Bourgnon and Peyron are in the middle. It takes almost a week for a leader to stand out. Finally, Bourgnon, then leader, broke his mainsail rail, Arthaud capsized off Newfoundland and Poupon lost ground due to a drift problem. There is only one left, Loïck Peyron, who sets foot on the accelerator and finishes in the lead with more than 24 hours on the second boat.

The 1992 edition is full of obstacles: storms, icebergs, cargo ships, fog and whales.

Here is what Jack G. Ganssle said the skipper of Amber on June 12, 1993

“The wind continued to rise all night, continuously until mid-morning. I was surprised to learn that Philippe Poupon (whom some Americans called ‘Gray Poupon’) had given up after breaking his central drift in the gale. Philippe was considered one of the big favourites of the race. Franck Ravez (Salsa), a 22-year-old Frenchman, had also given up just after the storm because he was too tired to continue. The person who mentioned these abandonments announced others but without giving names. I wanted to know more. What had become of my other friends? Is itWhat did Corkscrew say Trevor hoped would happen? Was Diminutive North holding out? Did Little Fritzz keep throwing his useless stuff overboard?

I knew there were competitors all around me. Fraser was somewhere ahead, and David was probably heading southeast. On Amber’s radar, there was nothing within 16 miles, but I wasn’t feeling alone. I felt that even though we were all alone on our boats, maybe hundreds of miles away, we were all together by thought.”

10 DAYS

10 HOURS

05 MIN

1996

A double for Peyron

PLYMOUTH

NEWPORT, RHODE ISLAND

53 COMPETITORS

VAINQUEUR :

LOÏCK PEYRON

BATEAU :

FUJICOLOR

LOÏCK PEYRON

Multihulls have become commonplace, and we are now witnessing a mainly French-French match, at least for the victory. Fans are back in force in the small classes, while spectators are waiting on the podium: Peyron, Bourgnon, Vatine or Joyon. The latter creates surprise by opting for a road never before used since the passage of Blondie Hasler in 1960, the North option. Joyon sails very north, bypassing the centers of the depressions that slow down his opponents on the direct route. He was more than 300 miles ahead when he reached Newfoundland and nothing seemed to be able to stop him in his race to the record. But unstable winds slowed him down just 400 miles from the finish. Even mishap for Laurent Bourgnon.

Loick Peyron can enjoy a second victory. And although he encountered less favourable weather conditions, he achieved a time very close to Philippe Poupon’s record in 1988. Paul Vatine crossed the line four hours later.

Here is an excerpt from Peter Crowther’s logbook after his boat Galway Blazer sank on June 24, 1996.

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“I was standing by the card table when we hit the bottom of a wave on the front of the mast on the right side with a horrible noise. It was as if an invisible man had smashed through a door. A stream of green water flowed inside the boat. It was so powerful that I knew right away that there was no way to stop it.

I then rushed to make a distress call on the radio, screaming my name, my position and I ABANDON THE SHIP! In this very short time, I already had knee-deep water. I grabbed the distress beacon and climbed into the liferaft. When I cut the mooring lines and listened to the front sail that hindered the passage, the bow was already submerged.

I sat on the deflated roof, absolutely wet. I said to myself, ‘thank you for all these years of navigation. The inside of the raft was very confined, you couldn’t see the horizon. I wanted to launch a rocket but they were too old and no longer working. Great.

Suddenly I saw a Nimrod plane and called it on the VHF. They told me that a boat had left to meet me, and they kindly remained in contact with me and the captain of the boat.

Shortly after, I saw the Atlantic Compass appear on the horizon. They came to me and threw me a piece. The door was three metres above me and you had to climb a ladder. I knew I wasn’t safe yet. In the panic, I realized that I had one leg behind the rope ladder against the hull and one leg in front. I still managed to climb and I thanked everyone I saw. Then I called my wife and daughters and thought I was happy to be alive. We shared our sorrow for losing such a beautiful boat.”

09 DAYS

23 HOURS

21 MIN

2000

Ellen's year

PLYMOUTH

NEWPORT, RHODE ISLAND

71 COMPETITORS

VAINQUEUR :

FRANCIS JOYON

BATEAU :

EURE ET LOIR

FRANCIS JOYON

This edition is considered the ‘Ellen year’. At just 23, she is the youngest competitor in the fleet and no one is expecting her at this level. On the water, everyone is impressed.

Seven 60-foot trimarans start the Europe 1 New Man STAR 2000, but the largest fleet is the Open 60, which has no less than 24 registered. Many of them participate in the transatlantic race as training and qualification for the Vendée Globe, which starts a few months later, in November.

The level among the Open 60 is very high, with as favorites Thomas Coville, Michel Desjoyeaux, Yves Parlier, Mike Golding, Roland Jourdain and Dominique Wavre. But in the end, the winner will be none of them. It’s a brand new boat, competing in its first race, with a 23-year-old English girl at the helm. Who would have bet on her? On the ninth day of the race, Ellen MacArthur makes a superb weather shot. She spots a limp on her way, decides to pull an unfavourable edge to the north and finally takes a 75 miles lead over the rest of the fleet, which she will keep until the finish. It was a decisive moment in her career, because the sailing world realized that the young Englishwoman was not there to do figuration and that she was able to win.

“One thing I’ve learned this year is if you have a dream deep in your heart, then you can and must make it happen” - Ellen MacArthur

08 DAYS

08 HOURS

29 MIN

2004

High speed, maximum risk

PLYMOUTH

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS

37 COMPETITORS

VAINQUEUR :

MICHEL DESJOYEAUX

BATEAU :

GÉANT

MICHEL DESJOYEAUX

In 2004, the event split into two, with a race reserved only for professional skippers, organized by OC Sport and simply named THE TRANSAT, and the traditional OSTAR open to amateurs and organized by the Royal Western Yacht Club the following year. The Transat brings together a total of 40 boats, IMOCA 60 monohulls, 50-foot monohulls and multihulls, with an unprecedented level and fierce competition.

But a week after the start, a storm sweeps across the North Atlantic and takes the race to a spectacular turn, with an unprecedented series of rescues within hours. Jean-Pierre Dick’s boat made a 360 in a wave and dismasted in 50 knots of wind. Vincent Riou on PRB also dismasted. Bernard Stamm is forced to abandon his IMOCA 60 Cheminées Poujoulat-Armor Lux after losing his keel and capsizing. On arrival in Boston, Michel Desjoyeaux wins on his trimaran ORMA with only three hours ahead of Thomas Coville, after 8 days at sea. Leading the IMOCA 60 fleet, Mike Golding won in Boston after 12 days, and also three hours ahead of the second, Dominique Wavre.

Bernard Stamm is the unlucky one in the fleet. Forced to activate his distress beacon and abandon his boat after losing his keel and capsizing. He was rescued by the crew of a small oil tanker and later returned to recover his IMOCA 60 with a tug based in Newfoundland, 360 miles from his position.

12 DAYS

08 HOURS

45 MIN

2008

An incredible rescue

PLYMOUTH

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS

9 COMPETITORS

VAINQUEUR :

LOÏCK PEYRON

BATEAU :

GITANA

LOÏCK PEYRON

The 2008 edition of the oldest solo offshore race, this year called the Artemis Transat, brings together 13 IMOCA skippers and 10 skippers in Class 40. Three of them did not finish the race and Vincent Riou was forced to abandon his IMOCA 60 in the middle of the Atlantic.

After a collision with a basking shark, PRB’s keel was severely damaged and its skipper did not feel safe approaching a severe storm. He prefers to abandon the boat. The race director, Sylvie Viant, asked Loïck Peyron, then the closest competitor, to divert to rescue Vincent Riou. To simplify the transfer, Vincent Riou launches his life raft. The operation, facilitated by the mild conditions at the time of the rescue, was a success.

Despite the obstacles, this edition is the fastest since the creation of the event, forty-eight years earlier. From day one, the monohull record held by Mike Golding on Ecover since 2004 is threatened. At the head of the fleet, Loïck Peyron is ahead of the British rider. He finally won in 12 days, 11 hours and 45 minutes, four weeks less than Sir Francis Chichester’s first crossing in 1960.

08 DAYS

08 HOURS

54 MIN

2016

The rebirth of a classic

PLYMOUTH

NEW YORK

25 COMPETITORS

VAINQUEUR :

FRANCOIS GABART

BATEAU :

MACIF

FRANCOIS GABART

The return of the Transat Anglaise after 8 years of absence was a great success with 25 boats on the starting line as well as the Ultimate class – dominated by François Gabart – which made its entrance into the race in a spectacular way.

Apart from the Ultime, the second major innovation was the implementation of a pre-departure from Saint Malo to Plymouth. This «Warm Up» was a great success, whether for sailors, sponsors or the French public.

On this edition, it was François Gabart who made history after a long carrying edge across the Atlantic and only 8 days and 54 minutes of racing. Its average speed - 23.11 knots - was three times higher than that of the last competitor to cross the line, the Japanese Hiroshi Kitada who completed his crossing in 22 days, 18 hours and three minutes of racing. Aboard his Class 40, Kiho, he became the first Japanese sailor to finish this race.

Between these two boats, the race was true to its reputation. The majority of the skippers were French but there were five sailors of other nationalities, including two German and two British. Six competitors, a quarter of the fleet, could not finish the race, including the British Richard Tolkien. Tolkien was injured and had to abandon his boat in the middle of the Atlantic and board a cargo ship. Apart from the Ultimes which ran on a south-facing road, most of the competitors had to face a big storm in the North Atlantic and also had to negotiate several lower-intensity depressions.

The Transat bakerly highlighted several confrontations between the best sailors in the world. In Ultime, the duel was played Thomas Coville (Sodebo) and François Gabart (Macif). In the IMOCA class, it was Vincent Riou and Armel Le Cléac'h who opposed each other during the entire Atlantic crossing. In Class 40, the battle was more open between four great sailors. Thibaut Vauchel-Camus (Solidaires en Peloton – ARSEP), Louis Duc (Carac), Phil Sharp (Iremys) and Isabelle Joschke (Generali Horizon Mixité) who was forced to retire. In the Multi 50, Gilles Lamiré (Rennes French Tech) won ahead of Lalou Roucayrol (Arkema).

Beyond that, the Banque Populaire/ PRB match in IMOCA was that of two generations of boats and it is the first, equipped with foils, which imposes itself against a PRB in a more conventional configuration. Le Cléac'h’s lead was not very important but he controlled Vincent Riou for the majority of the race, showing that even on a course dominated by the near, the foilers could have the advantage.

One of the participants in this edition was a little apart. It is Loïck Peyron, aboard Pen Duick II, the former boat of Eric Tabarly. His goal was to salute the memory of Tabarly by crossing the Atlantic aboard the winning boat of the second edition, in 1964. However, the strong and contrary winds at the beginning of summer 2016 were right Pen Duick II who encountered a shoring problem. Peyron was forced to turn around after 13 days at sea while he was in the middle of the Atlantic.

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