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ross Field’s W60, America’s Challenge – scuppered by financial
problems.
While the first, and longest, leg had demonstrated the levels
of achievement that these high tech yachts and professional
crews were able to attain, it was not until a third of the race
had gone by that a definite pecking order had been established.
By this time, EF Language had won two legs and Swedish
Match (Gunnar Krantz) had taken the third. records, too, had
been set. Silk Cut (Lawrie smith), set the 24-hour world record
for a monohull during leg two of 449.1 nautical miles but her
challenge for overall glory fell apart on the southern ocean leg
five when her mast came down.
As predicted pre-race, these Whitbread 60s provided some
thrilling and close racing but, owing to the similarities of the
class, once a boat managed to break away from the pack, she
proved to be hard to catch. In the end, paul Cayard and the
crew of EF Language demonstrated that lack of experience in
ocean racing was no handicap in terms of boat driving and crew.
By the end of the seventh leg they had opened up a virtually
unassailable lead on the points table and interest lay with the
battle for second place.
this was won, at the final hurdle, by Merit Cup (Grant Dalton)
with Swedish Match (Gunnar
Krantz) taking third place.
worldwide. this, in turn, provided entertainment for the millions
In all, six of the ten starters
of sailing fans around the world and a whole new audience was
won at least one leg and only
introduced to the thrills of ocean water racing via the Internet.
85 points separated the second
Aside from the 35 weekly half-hour television programmes
to sixth W60 on the final points
produced by trans World International, the race had its own web
table. the Dutch entry, Brunel
site, produced by Quokka sports. on busy days, such as restarts,
Sunergy (roy heiner), proved
this web site recorded around 13 million hits, surpassing even the
that a little ingenuity never
new York stock exchange.
goes amiss and the girls on EF
For the first time, the fleet was made up of one class only,
Education (Christine Guillou)
the Whitbread 60, and a fleet of ten set off from southampton on
bounced back from a broken
the morning of sunday, 21st september 1997, vying for the Volvo
mast on leg five and showed
trophy. A complicated points scoring system replaced elapsed
that they were often the equal
time. each leg carried more or less points depending on how
of their physically stronger
hard it was deemed to be to win. With nine legs to endure and
male rivals. the norwegian
1997/98: winning
visiting eight stopovers in six countries in the space of just over
skipper Paul Cayard.
entry, Innovation Kvaerner
eight months, one of the biggest features of the race was the
(Knut Frostad) and the semi-
inclusion of many high profile short course sailors. All the smart
privately funded Chessie Racing (George Collins), demonstrated
pre-race betting showed the favourite to be Toshiba, Dennis
consistency throughout but, without doubt, the 1997-98
Conner’s entry with Kiwi Chris Dickson at the helm. In the event,
Whitbread belonged to paul Cayard and the crew of EF Language.
however, Dickson jumped ship in Cape town at the end of the
first leg, by which time America’s Cup skipper, paul Cayard, on
Next month we follow the transformation of the race from the
his first round the world ocean race, had put EF Language’s bow
Whitbread into the Volvo Ocean Race and track its history through to
in front. Another loss in Cape town was 1993-94 W60 winner the present.
MAY 2009 YACHTWORLD.COM 25
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