This race was created to take the overflow from the 1980 OSTAR and, because it was two- not single-handed it had less restrictive size limits (150 entries and a maximum length of 85 feet). The event, which rapidly became known as the TwoSTAR, proved popular and it too was oversubscribed.
103 boats came to the start 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’Aucy dismasted 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. Magazine and 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.