OSTAR 1968

Storms and the introduction (and banning) of weather routing

The race became truly international with a total of 35 competitors from as far a field as Sweden, Germany, USA and South Africa to add to the usual British and French entries. The starters included the 1964 winner Eric Tabarly, in his revolutionary trimaran Pen Duick IV, the first woman entrant, Edith Baumann from West Germany in her sloop Koala III, and the Frenchman Joan de Kat in his sloop Yaksha. Of these three, Tabarly retired at the end of the first week; de Kat’s yacht broke up, and he was rescued after a vast air and sea search lasting three days; and Edith Baumann was rescued off the Azores.

This race that proved what a tough proposition the OSTAR can be. During the race the North Atlantic was swept by a massive depression bringing with it 60 knot, storm force winds. Many competitors hoved to, dropping all but a storm jib to sit out the terrible conditions.

Only one competitor made a significant gain by taking advantage of the rules, which had not outlawed weather routing (at that time, it was not considered viable for solo skippers). Before satellite communications, on board internet access or web-based weather sites, Geoffrey Williams racing the monohull Sir Thomas Lipton was the first to use weather routing. Via a hefty high-frequency radio, Williams would communicate with meteorologists at Bracknell who were running weather models using a very early computer and who would provide him with forecasts. Warned of the storm, Williams sailed north missing the brunt of it and gained an estimated 300 miles over his competitors in the process. Williams went on to win the race despite some controversy at the end when he sailed the wrong course – Williams missed a vital part of the skippers briefing when an amendment to the sailing instructions was issued to round the Nantucket Light Vessel on approach to finish. As the Race Committee had not published the amendment in writing, grounds for any protest were weak. In a display of great sportsmanship, no other skipper protested him. Weather routing was banned from subsequent races and the rule setters were careful to distinguish between Nantucket and the light vessel.

While one multihull had entered in 1960 (but was unable to start) and three had competed in 1964, in 1968 there were no fewer than 13 multihulls (although only five completed the course), including a 65ft (20m) “monster” (Pen Duick IV) entered by Eric Tabarly. But his trimaran lacked preparation following the social unrest of May 1968 in France, forcing him to retire. The best multihull was a proa Cheersdesigned by an as yet unknown American, Dick Newick and raced by Tom Follet who finished in third place.

This edition was a sign of a new era to come.

OSTAR 1968

SkipperYachtTypeLOAClassH/capElapsed TimeCorrectd TimeRankClass RankCorr RankNation
Williams, GeoffreySir Thomas LiptonM5725 20 331GBR
Dalling, BruceVoortrekkerM490.85426 13 4222 16 5121RSA
Follett, TomCheersP4027 00 133USA
Williams, LeslieSpirit of Cutty SarkM530.85329 10 1725 02 4444GBR
Howell, BillGolden CockerelC42.531 16 245AUS
Cooke, BrianOpusM320.71834 08 2324 16 1463GBR
Minter-Kemp, MartinGancia GirlT4234 13 157GBR
Bevan, NoelMyth of MalhamM400.78936 01 4128 11 0188GBR
de Castelbajac, BernardMaxineM34.50.72837 13 4727 08 3696FRA
Terlain, Jean-YvesMaguelonneM350.72338 09 1027 18 17107FRA
Burgess, NigelDogwatchM270.70838 12 1327 06 20115GBR
Foezon, AndréSylvia IIM360.73840 00 1629 12 29129FRA
Enbom, BertilFioneM200.60640 14 1324 14 22132SWE
Hehner, ClausMexM3741 10 4632 00 041411GER
Pakenham, StephenRob RoyM32.50.77242 03 4930 10 201510GBR
Forbes, ColinStartled FaunT330.72245 10 0816GBR
Rodriguez, BernardAmistadT2547 18 0517USA
Richey, MikeJesterM260.65857 10 4037 19 431812GBR
Mattsson, AkeGoodwin IIM19.50.616DSQSWE
Tabarly, EricPen Duick IVT67DamagedFRA
Willis, EricCoilaT50IllGBR
Carozzo, AlexSan GiorgioC53DamagedITA
Pyle, DavidAtlantis IIIM26.50.695DamagedGBR
Wallin, WilliamWilecaM270.662RetiredSWE
Waquet, BernardTamoureT26RetiredFRA
Bauman, EdithKoala IIIT39.5DamagedGER
Wingate, RobertZeevalkM39.50.799DamagedGBR
Pulsford, MikeWhite GhostT34DamagedGBR
Heinemann, EgonAye-AyeM330.736DamagedGER
Piazzini, GuyGuntur IIIM41DamagedSUI
Munro, SandyOcean HighlanderC45DamagedGBR
Paillard, LionelLa DeliranteM360.693RetiredFRA
Cuiklinski, MarcAmbrimaM370.72SankFRA
de Kat, JoanYakshaT50SankFRA
Gliksman, AlainRaphM580.887DamagedFRA