The History of the Two-handed Transatlantic Race

Vento - finishing TWOSTAR 2012
Vento - finishing TWOSTAR 2012

The Creation of the TWOSTAR

The Two-handed Transatlantic Race was created in response to the overwhelming success of the Singlehanded OSTAR. The Club had come under pressure around 1976 from “the authorities” to reduce the boat size and the number of boats in the OSTAR fleet.

However it was soon clear that the 1980 OSTAR would massively oversubscribed and that competitors were unhappy about the new boat length restrictions.

So in 1978 the decision was made to accommodate the overflow by running a second race in 1981. Because it was to be for boats sailed by a crew of two it could have more generous limits – 150 entries (100 for 1980 OSTAR) and boat lengths up to 85ft (56ft).

The event, which soon became known as the TwoSTAR, proved popular and it too was oversubscribed.

TWOSTAR Records & Results

1981 – The first TwoSTAR

103 boats came to the start of the first Twohanded Transatlantic Race and British hopes lay with Robin Knox-Johnston / Billy King-Harman, in Sea Falcon (a 70 foot catamaran)and Chay Blyth / Rob James in Brittany Ferries GB (a 65 foot tri). They faced a strong challenge from the French, who included Eric Tabarly with his foiler trimaran Paul Ricard, Marc Pajot in Elf Aquitaine, Loic Caradec in Royale and Oliver de Kersauson in Jacques Ribourel at 78 feet the biggest boat in the race, and the Canadians Mike Birch and Walter Greene in Tele-7-Jours.

The race started in strong (30kt) winds and there were several incidents. The trimaran D’Aucy (Alain Labbe) and the proa Sudinox (Guy Delage) were in collision and retired with D’Aucydismasted and Sudinox holed. Marc Pajot in Elf Aquitaine was in collision with Martin Minter-Kemp in Exchange Travel, which left Elf with a leak which required regular pumping and Exchange Travel put in to Fowey for repairs. Royale was dismasted soon after the start.

Gales continued for several days and more competitors suffered in what many experienced skippers said was as bad as, or worse than, anything they had encountered.  Eric and Patrick Tabarly retired when Paul Ricard suffered structural damage, Philip Steggall and Thomas Wiggins were rescued from their upturned trimaran Bonifacio, and Gordano Goose retired to the Scillies with damaged rudder.

The proa Eterna Royal Quartz was dismasted and then abandoned when further damaged while sailing to Spain under jury rig.  The failure of proas and their involvement in collisions saw their exclusion from future races.

Many boats thrived in the conditions. Chay Blyth and Rob James brought Brittany Ferries GB into Newport in a new record time of 14 days 13 hours and 54 minutes, 140 miles ahead of their nearest rival, Marc Pajot, in Elf Aquitaine. Eric Loiseau in Gauloise IV was third and Robin Knox-Johnston and Billy King-Harman fourth in Sea Falcon. Next came the first monohull, Bruno Bacilieri and Marc Vallin in Faram Serenissima just 2½ hours ahead of Florence Arthaud and Francois Boucher, in Monsieur Meuble. No less than 13 boats managed to beat Phil Weld’s single-handed record of the year before.

There were many close finishes with Black Jack and Poppy II eight minutes apart, F. Magazineand Festival de Lorient separated by just two minutes, and Coathalem, Sherpa Bill and Assassin finished within eight minutes after 25 days’ sailing.

Many smaller boats turned in remarkable performances and last to finish was 25ft Yang sailed by Jean Lacombe, veteran of the first OSTAR, this time accompanied by Tony Austin.

1981 TwoSTAR Entries
Started 103
Finished 76
Nationalities 15
1981 TwoSTAR Winner
Winner Chay Blyth / Rob James
Nationality GBR
Yacht Name Brittany Ferries
Hull Type Cat
Time 14d 13h 54m

1986 – The second TwoSTAR, the French dominate as tragedy strikes

After the success of the first two-handed transatlantic race in 1981, it was assumed that the second race in the series would attract even more entries than its predecessor. But the 1986 race suffered from a lack of an early sponsor and alternative events elsewhere.  Carlsberg Lager sponsored the race but there was insufficient funds to equip the competitors with Argos trackers and only 49 boats actually started.

Apricot (Tony Bullimore, Walter Greene) was a favourite after the Round Britain win in the previous year and there was the expectation that two people could handle a 60 footer more efficiently than a larger 80 footer. However the performance of the Class II multihulls would depend as always on the weather.

With the absence of several Class I and II boats the smaller competitors felt there would be more interest in their section of the race.  23 of the 36 monohulls were in Classes III and IV (35 to 45ft).  Amongst these was Sony Handicam (Ntombifuti)sailed by Kitty Hampton and Mary Falk. Ntombifuti carried water ballast for which owner Ian Radford had obtained approval from the committee despite it then being prohibited in conventional racing.

Paul Elvstrom fired the starting gun on the 8th June and the usual failures occurred.  Regular competitors Philip and Frances Walwyn retired and sailed home to St Kitts when their 75ft cat Spirit of St Kitts developed leaks. Peter Phillips sailing 80ft Novanet blew out the main after 4 days and returned to Plymouth. Pete Goss and Chris Johnson sailed the Royal Marines’ 34ft Sarie Marais to second in class despite having to bail a leak caused by a loose keel. Laurel Holland and Joan Greene broke the forestay on their 45ft cat Sebago, and retired to St. Johns. Fourteen of the starters failed to finish or finished over the time limit.

The two remaining Class 1 multihulls took the first two places with Loic Caradec and Olivier Despagne in their 85ft cat Royale finishing in 13 days and 6 ½ hours ahead of Mike Birch and Olivier Moussy in Formule Tag.

Tony Bullimore and Walter Greene finished third in the 60ft trimaran Apricot winning Class II almost exactly two days behind Royale.

The first monohull to arrive was the 60ft Tuna Marine Voortrekker, sailed by South Africans John Martin and Rob Sharp, finishing sixth in 17 days 13 hours. Harry Harkimo and Michaela Koskull, from Finland, sailing 50ft Belmont, finished in 22 days 1 hour to win Class III. Gerry Hannaford and Michael Moody, Hetaera 45ft, finished in just over 22 days to win Class IV, and beat all Class III except Belmont. The Bulgarians, Tenev Svetlozar and Vasil Poov brought their 38ft Bulcan Star in 22 days 9 hours to win Class V and achieve 13th place overall. That 7 different nationalities finished in the first 13 places illustrated the international appeal of the race.

The event was marred by the loss of Berlucchi, the Italian 60 footer sailed by Beppe Panada and Roberto Kramar, which disappeared with no distress call from their self activating EPIRB. Some months later Berlucchi was found floating upside down with no keel and unfortunately the crew were never found.

1986 TwoSTAR Entries
Started 49
Finished 35
Nationalities 13
1986 TwoSTAR Winner
Winner Loic Caradec / Olivier Despaigne
Nationality FRA
Yacht Name Royale
Hull Type Cat
Time 13d 06h 32m

1990 – The third TwoSTAR, storms and records

Only 37 started the third TwoSTAR in 1990. The numbers reflected to conflict with the Globe Challenge and the BOC singlehanded round-the-world races (both organised after the TwoSTAR) in an increasingly crowded short-handed oceanic race calendar. The race still attracted several 60’ Class I  entrants including multihulls of Florence Arthaud (Pierre 1er), Jean Maurel (Elf Aquitaine), Loïck Peyron (Lada Poch), and monohulls of Warren Luhrs (Hunter’s Child), and John Martin (Allied Bank).

Britain’s main hope was Tony Bullimore (Spirit of Apricot) who had not recovered from a back injury and withdrew.

Another non-starter was Non Smoking Days which was impounded by Customs and Excise.

‘Boots’ Parker and BJ Watkins were the only all-female crew finishing third in their class. The oldest competitor was 65 year-old Norwegian Arne Lie skipper of Tresbelle (37ft) and the youngest was Stephen Moon (20) on Minitech which at 30ft was the smallest boat. The largest was 65’ Olivetti, skippered by Loïck’s brother Bruno Peyron, which being over the 60’ size limit was allowed to sail with the fleet but not to record a place. However Olivetti along with Minitech and Tresbelle suffered damage and retired, Tresbelle losing its mast 300 miles off Newfoundland. Another failure was Sprint whose crew was rescued by RAF helicopter some 200 miles off Ireland.

Records were set in this race  –  Jean Maurel and Michel Desjoyeaux (Elf Aquitaine) finished in 10 days 23 hrs 15 min, beating the previous record by 2 days 6hr 55min, and Mike Birch and Didier Munduteguy (Fujicolor) finished just 4hr behind.

John and Ian Martin (Allied Bank) were the first monohull home in 15 days 13 hr 25 min beating the previous record by 11hr 25min but were penalised 2 hr 15min for failing to report their positions by radio.

1990 TwoSTAR Entries
Started 37
Finished 26
Nationalities 9
1990 TwoSTAR Winner
Winner Jean Maurel / Michel Desjoyaux
Nationality FRA
Yacht Name Elf Aquitaine
Hull Type Tri
Time 10d 23h 15m

1994 – The fourth TwoSTAR

In 1994 eighteen yachts went to the line, but nine did not finish. The fleet was led home by Laurent Bourgnon and Cam Lewis in the 60 foot trimaran Primagaz in a time of 9 days 08 hours and 58 minutes for a new race and multihull race record. Cherbourg Technologiesskippered by Halvard Mabrine and Christine Guillou came 4th in a time of 15 days 00 hours and 31 minutes for the monohull race record.

Thirty-eight men and two women from 6 countries entered 20 yachts in the fourth edition of the TwoSTAR.  The race offered the prospect of being the fastest to date with a fleet ranging from nine super-fast 60ft multihulls and monohulls to a tiny 26ft catamaran.

In the event 18 yachts came to the start in blustery winds for what turned out to be an exciting race.  Problems occurred from the start when PRB Vendee, one of the 60ft multis, lost way round the first mark in Plymouth Sound and drifted down onto BM Charles, at 30ft one of the smallest yachts, skippered by Michel Kleinjans and broke their mast above the spreader.  Fujicolor, one of the fancied 60ft trimarans co-skippered by Loïck Peyron and Frank Proffitt, broke a spinnaker halyard and lost 20 minutes to the leader. The second to retire, later that night, was Haute Normandie following the appearance of stress cracks in the starboard hull.  Lakota retired to Plymouth suffering problems with their sail and Mollymawkreturned with sail track failure. In Flight returned when the crew became unwell, then restarted but eventually retired to the Azores.

Jean Louis Miquel, skipper of Lege Cap Ferret Aquitaine, injured his hand when the 60ft trimaran was dismasted.  The Irish coastguard recovered him by helicopter and co-skipper Jean Louis Roucayrol returned to France under engine power.  Sixth to retire was French tri Twinsea with a broken shroud while lying third.

By day 5 race leaders, Primagaz and Fujicolor, were well ahead of the fleet and separated by only two miles but prospects of record breaking times appeared to have disappeared with contrary winds. Four days later the leaders were still battling it out only a few miles apart with 130 miles to go.  Problems continued with Primagaz hitting a shark and both leaders hindered by fog.

The two French trimarans continued swapping place to the finish where Primagaz, skippered by Laurent Bourgnon and American Cam Lewis, crossed the line in 9 days 8 hours and 58 minutes  smashing the previous record by 39 hours!  Fujicolor (Loïck Peyron and Frank Proffitt) followed only 1 hour 20 minutes behind the leader also comfortably breaking the 1990 record.

Meanwhile Maarten Dirkswager and Patric Mazuay were rescued by a merchant ship after Hubris 3 capsized.

Third place went to Dupon Duran, skippered by Pascal Harold and Lionel Pean, the first catamaran to finish beating the previous record by two hours. Their autopilot failed on the first day so they crossed taking 12 hr shifts on the wheel.

The next record was set by the 60ft French monohull Cherbourg Technologies finishing in fourth place beating the old time by over 15 hours. Their time was remarkable since they had to stop mid-Atlantic to repair a mainsail and co-skipper Christine Guillon suffered a broken toe.

The remaining yachts finished with the exception of British Tiger skippered by Brian and Wendy Rimmer assisted by their dog Lucy who retired when becalmed near the race deadline.

Nine of the eighteen starters finished in a fast race that saw the previous tri, cat, and mono records well beaten.

1994 TwoSTAR Entries
Started 18
Finished 9
Nationalities 5
1994 TwoSTAR Winner
Winner Laurent Bourgnon / Cam Lewis
Nationality FRA
Yacht Name Primagaz
Hull Type Tri
Time 09d 08h 58m

2012 – The fifth TwoSTAR, the race returns with favourable winds

Following the 2009 OSTAR it was proposed that the Twohanded race be revived.  There was much interest from regular competitors in the RWYC’s oceanic events and from the French multihullers who would race across in the TwoSTAR and return in the Quebec-St Malo.

So the fifth edition of the Twohanded Transatlantic Race was announced, with a start on 3 June 2012.  The race was open to mono- and multi-hulls between 27 and 60 feet in length sailing on handicap, and an Open 40 class.

Unfortunately many potential competitors dropped out due to conflicts in schedule and sponsorship, and in the event only nine monohulls made it to the start line.  However the starters all had a strong background in oceanic races. Andrea Mura, in his Open 50, had a class win in the Route du Rhum, Michel Kleinjans, in Roaring Forty II, had class wins in his three RB&Is and three OSTARs, and the other entries had raced several RB&Is and OSTARs.

Following a clean start the larger boats headed out into the Channel while the lighter displacements boats hugged the shore before heading out into the Atlantic. Ruffian (Pete McIntyre, Emma Nutt) suffered engine failure and were unable to generate electricity. They retired in Falmouth when they were unable to fix the problem quickly.  Roaring Forty (Hans Plath and Thibault Reinhart) lost radar and AIS when a spinnaker pole got loose and caused damage on deck; they were concerned that their boat (with little metal on board) would not show in the fogs to be expected on the Grand Banks and so retired home. Quid Non had alternator problems and put in to Kinsale for repairs but were on their way after 24 hours. On day 5 Change of Course (Keith Gibbs and Janet Sainsbury) experienced a forestay roller reefing failure that forced them to turn back and retire.

The Race brought one surprise – the reduction of the usual headwinds.  With the leaders able to seek out favourable winds thoughts turned to the record.  The monohull record, 15 days and 31 minutes, had been set by Halvard Mabire and Christine Guillou in the Open 60 Cherbourg Technologies in 1994.

Not all had it easy; fast moving lows brought their usual excitement, then David Perkins and Alistair Auckland (Suomi Kudu) were caught in the Azores high, decided they had no hope of finishing in time, and retired to Horta.

Andrea Mura and Riccardo Apolloni sailed Vento Di Sardegna across the finish line at Newport RI at 23:47: GMT on 16th June 2012 completing the transatlantic crossing from Plymouth in a record 13 days 12 hours and 47 minutes at an average velocity made good of 8.6 knots.

2012 TwoSTAR Entries
Started 17
Finished 13
Nationalities 7
2012 TwoSTAR Winner
Winner Andrea Mura / Riccardo Apolloni
Nationality ITA
Yacht Name Vento di Sardegna
Hull Type Mono
Time 13d 12h 47m

2017 – The sixth TwoSTAR, the “perfect storm”

The sixth edition of the Twohanded Transatlantic Race, the TWOSTAR, was unique in several respects. For the first time the Royal Western Yacht Club ran both its transatlantic races in the same year, with the singlehanded OSTAR and the doublehanded TWOSTAR starting together. Then both fleets were hit by one of the worst storms experienced in the long history of the RWYC’s shorthanded oceanic racing – their ”Perfect Storm”. From a combined start of twenty one boats ten retired, four were abandoned and only seven finished the race.

Even before the storm there were problems. The trimaran PiR2 (Etienne Hochede and Françoise Hanss) suffered masthead damage losing their anemometer and returned to Plymouth. Berk Plathner and Werner Stolz suffered damage and retired their 28ft trimaran Hikari, the smallest boat in the race, heading for Portugal. This retirement saw both multihulls out of the race.

Then, in the early hours of Friday 9th June, 60 knot winds and 15 metre seas were experienced by competitors, caused by a very low depression (967mb – 15mb lower than the terrible Fastnet storm). Happy (Wytse Bouma and Jaap Barendregt) was pitchpoled and dismasted and the Dutch crew were rescued by a Dutch tug headed for the Bahamas. Bulgarians Mihail Kopanov and Dian Zaykov sailing Furia struck a floating object causing severe flooding and leaving it sinking. They took to their liferaft and were rescued by the survey vessel Thor Magna headed to Halifax.
Adélie Parat and Mederic Thiout in Midnight Summer Dream reported that they had mainsail damage but were attempting repairs and were confident they would not have to retire. Uwe Röttgering and Asia Pajkowska, both experienced OSTAR sailors, managed to maintain their lead in Rote 66.

Eventually, on 19 June, Rote 66 (Uwe Röttgering and Asia Pajkowska) crossed the Castle Hill finish line in Newport, Rhode Island, at 6:43 local time to take line honours in the 2017 TWOSTAR with an elapsed time of 20d 22h 43m.
Adélie Parat and Mederic Thiout in Midnight Summer Dream finished seven days later still suffering from the sail damage caused in the storm.

The 2017 TWOSTAR was sailed in what was probably the worst weather experienced in the races. Six boats started, two finished, two retired and two were lost with their skippers rescued under the control of the Canadian joint rescue services.

2017 TwoSTAR Entries
Started 6
Finished 2
Nationalities 6
2017 TwoSTAR Winner
Winner Uwe Röttgering / Asia Pajkowska
Nationality GER / POL
Yacht Name Rote 66
Hull Type Mono
Time 20d 22h 43m