The second OSTAR in 1964 was the launch pad for one of the most influential figures in the history of single-handed sailing, the development of sailing as a sport in France and in offshore race boat design. In 1960 Francis Chichester had managed the crossing in 40 days, then a 32 year-old French naval lieutenant Eric Tabarly won the 1964 race taking just 27 days aboard his 44ft ketch Pen Duick II.
A total of seventeen yachtsmen entered the race. All those who sailed in the first race were back again, though only Francis Chichester and Blondie Hasler were sailing the same boats. Val Howells sailed a 35 foot steel cutter, Akka, a production yacht he was delivering to America; David Lewis switched to a catamaran Rehu Moana, one of three multihulls in the race; and Jean Lacombe had moved from the 21 foot Cap Horn to his new 22 foot glass fibre sloop Golif. Mike Ellison, who failed to start in the first race, was back in a larger boat Ilala (36 ft).
Two yachts were unable to compete: Arthur Piver was unable to deliver his trimaran from the US in time and so missed his second OSTAR; Charles McLendon, an American living in London, suffered a fire on his 48’ ketch Morna – which would have been the largest boat in the race.
Two changes were introduced for the second race: the finish line was switched from New York to Newport, Rhode Island, so the competitors could avoid the marine traffic at New York; and a prize was awarded for fastest monohull on corrected time (using a handicap based on waterline length).
time (using a handicap based on waterline length).
Two event occurred that were to be repeated in future races – two collisions, one with a spectator boat and another with a whale. Val Howells (Akka) was rammed by a spectator boat after the start and had to return for repairs. Five days out while contestting for second place a few miles behind Eric Tabarly, Derer Kelsall (Folatre) struck what he presumed was a whale, damaging a rudder and daggerboard. He returned to Plymouth for repairs then restarted finishing a creditable 34 days later.
Publicity from the first OSTAR turned the second race into a media circus with a number of the 15 competitors signed up by national newspapers to provide regular progress reports by radio. The crowds at the start brought about the first collision between a spectator boat and a competitor, Val Howells, who had to return for repairs.
Tabarly, the only Frenchman in the race, was the sailor’s favourite for the race with the advantage of sailing the largest boat and the only one purpose-built for the event. He had also carried out an in-depth study of the weather and physically was very fit. On a route close to the Great Circle and without the strong storms that had characterised the first edition, he reached Newport three days before Francis Chichester.
Arriving in Newport, Rhode Island he had no prior knowledge of his win – he had not used his radio during the race – and almost as a passing comment let slip that his self-steering system had only worked for the first 8 days of the 27 days it took him to complete the course.
At a depressed time in France, Tabarly became an overnight hero and for his endeavour was presented with his country’s highest honour, the Legion d’Honneur, by President de Gaulle. France’s love affair with solo offshore racing had begun.