Over a hundred declarations of intent were received by the organisers and in the end eight boats entered but only five boats crossed the start line off Plymouth, and remarkably all five reached New York on the other side.
Self-steering gear was in its most basic homemade form, roller-reefing sails were just a dream and there were no satellite navigation systems just hand-held compasses and sextants.
The five pioneer yachtsmen took very different options, with Blondie Hasler (Jester 25ft) opting for an extreme Northern route, Francis Chichester (Gipsy Moth III 40ft) and David Lewis (Cardinal Vertue 25ft) on the Great Circle route and Val Howells (Eira 25ft) and Jean Lacombe (Cap Horn 21.5ft) on the Azores route.
Just four boats started at 10am on the 11th June and one was soon back in Plymouth. Cardinal Vertue was dismasted a few hours into the race but after a busy weekend Lewis rejoined the race on Monday. Lacombe arrived in Plymouth just in time for the eve-of-race dinner having been delayed by bad weather crossing from Le Havre and started three days late after provisioning.
Little was heard from the competitors during the race and fears grew for their safety but, finally, Chichester arrived 40 days, 12 hours and 30 minutes after leaving Plymouth. “Every time I tried to point Gipsy Moth at New York the wind blew dead on the nose” said Chichester. “It was like trying to reach a doorway with a man in it aiming a hose at you. It was much tougher than I thought.”
Hasler reached New York in 48 days but second place was no disappointment. He had proved that his self-steering system was more than efficient to handle the 25ft Jester with a single Chinese lugsail on an unstayed mast, and claimed he had only had to take the tiller for one hour of the entire journey.
Howells’ 63 day crossing included a seven day stopover in Bermuda to effect repairs and replace his chronometer lost in a knockdown.
Lacombe was the final skipper to arrive, in 74 days, having started 3 days after the others. His Cap Horn was the smallest boat in the race and the route he took maximised his time in the contrary Gulf Stream. With an earlier east-west single-handed transatlantic crossing (in an 18ft boat), Lacombe was possibly the most experienced competitor on the race.
Three other yachtsmen had entered but were unable to start. American yacht designer Arthur Piver sailed his trimaran (Nimble, 30ft) across but arrived one week late. Still determined to compete, he was working up in Plymouth Sound when he was dismasted and had to withdraw. Mike Ellison also arrived late and decided to withdraw his 24ft cutter (Blue Haze) with self-steering problems and concerns that the boat was not ready for an Atlantic crossing.
Walter Kaminski, from Berlin, suffered damage to his yacht (26ft cutter Sayonara) which delayed his arrival in England where the authorities refused him entry because the race has already started.
|Skipper||Yacht||Type||LOA||Class||H/cap||Elapsed Time||Correctd Time||Rank||Class Rank||Corr Rank||Nation|
|Chichester, Francis||Gipsy Moth III||M||40||40 12 30||1||GBR|
|Hasler, Blondie||Jester||M||26||48 12 02||2||GBR|
|Lewis, David||Cardinal Vertue||M||25||56 00 50||3||GBR|
|Howells, Val||Eira||M||25||63 05 50||4||GBR|
|Lacombe, Jean||Cap Horn||M||21.5||74 00 00||5||FRA|