Ninety-one boats started in a strong south-easterly and the multihulls were quickly away, but within six hours the first was out – June Clarke (Batchelors Sweet Pea) pitchpoled and was rescued by lifeboat. In the early stages of the race it was two catamarans of Patrick Morvan (Jet Services) and Gilles Gahinet (33 Export) that dominated until they were forced to retire through damage to the hull and mast problems, respectively.
The competitors had been warned of large numbers of icebergs drifting further south than usual, but it was whales that caused more problems. Class IV winner Luis Tonizzo sighted several and sailed over one that lifted his boat out of the water “I was very lucky it didn’t touch the rudder otherwise it would have broken off”. Not so lucky was Henk van de Weg whose boat Tjisje sank and David Duncombe who retired after hitting whales.
But it was the capsizing of Philippe Jeantot (Credit Agricole) in the middle of the Atlantic that was the talk of the town posing a problem at the finish. Philippe Poupon (Fleury Michon) was first to finish in Newport in a record 16 days, 11 hours and 55 minutes (which was increased by 30 minutes for his start line penalty), but Yvon Fauconnier (Umupro Jardin) was declared the winner after standing-by Jeantot for 16 hours. His finish time of 16 days, 22 hours and 25 minutes were reduced by 16 hours to 16 days, 6 hours and 25 minutes. Philippe Poupon on hearing the news during the middle of his victory press conference, could not disguise his immense disappointment and broke down in tears. At the prize giving Fauconnier received the overall winner prize and Poupon was awarded a special Line Honours prize.
Two other boats, Alan Wynne Thomas (Jemima Nicholas) and Bertus Buys (Sea-Beryl), received time allowances for assisting other casualties.
The first 11 boats finished within 24 hours of each other and of the 10 only two skippers were not French and only the 10th placed boat was not a multihull. 13 skippers beat the record time of 17 days 23 hours set by Phil Weld in the previous race.
The French were back and the race was fast becoming a transatlantic multihull sprint.