American skipper, Kip Stone, in his very first solo offshore race has won the Open 50 monohull class on board ‘Artforms’ – it is an awesome performance for a sailor who until competing in The Transat had not raced solo before. Stone crossed the Boston Harbour finish line at 18:20:27 GMT yesterday (15.6.04) evening in an elapsed time of 15 days, 5 hours, 20 minutes and 27 seconds at an average speed of 7.66 knots. To compare, Stone has finished ahead of four Open 60s still racing and only one day slower than the Open 60s finishing in 6th, 7th and 8th place, sailed by skippers who normally grace the podiums of major solo events.
Stone was welcomed home by his family and employees from his Maine T-shirt company, Artforms, which he grew into a successful company – successful enough to fund his dream of racing solo in The Transat. Stone launched his new Open 50 Artforms designed by Mervyn Owen last September and then sailed her solo from New Zealand to the UK which gave Stone the opportinity to get to know Artforms inside out – obviously, this has reaped big dividends.
In the early stages of The Transat, Kip Stone fought for the lead with fellow New Englander Joe Harris on board Wells Fargo-American Pioneer. Not more than 60 miles separated the two of them as they traded first and second place. Finally, Stone got a grip of the lead when on day ten, Harris seeing that he was losing miles to Artforms, dived south in search of more wind. Unfortunately, for Harris this did not pay in the way he hoped and Stone went on to increase his lead day by day until approaching the finish in Boston, he had built up an incredible 260 mile lead.
In setting this pace, Stone has taken a good 13 hours off the transatlantic race record of 15 days, 18 hours, 29 minutes set by 60ft multihull skipper, Giovanni Soldini, in the 1996 race.
In the four-boat class, this now only leaves Joe Harris – expected to finish late today – Jacque Bouchacourt (Okami) and Roger Langevin (Branec III).
In the 50ft multihull class, French skipper Dominique Demachy on board his Erik Lerouge designed GIFI claimed third place crossing the finish line at 0203 GMT this morning in a time of 15 days, 13 hours, 3 minutes and 56 seconds – finishing a little over 35 hours after French winner Eric Bruneel on Trilogic who set such a blinding pace in this race that no one could match.
For Demachy, though, it is a huge achievement in his first solo transatlantic race. If it was not for a career, selling consumer household goods for a company called GIFI, Demachy may have started his solo professional racing career many years ago. But 15 years later, having grown the company from three shops to 250, Demachy realised he could afford to buy himself a boat and pursue his long-standing dream.
Demachy raced tenaciously to battle for second place in the 50ft multi class with American skipper, Rich Wilson on Great American II, for much of the 2800 mile course. By the end of day four, Demachy went into second following the retirement of class favourite Franck-Yves Escoffier on Crepes Whaou !, 40 miles ahead of Wilson. The boats went far north, and Wilson furthest north at 52 degrees, got ahead of Gifi by the afternoon of day six but two days later as Wilson moved south, Demachy took control. At times only 10 miles separated the boats and Demachy held on to second until positions came through at 1300 GMT on 11.6.04 that showed Wilson, now south of Gifi, had moved into second place. Wilson would not cede this position and with little opportunity to pass as they closed on the US east coast, Demachy had to settle for third place.
With the third place finish of Demachy and the retirements of Crepes Whaou ! and Mike Birch’s Nootka, this only leaves French skipper Etienne Hochedé racing PIR2 to finish (current ETA lunchtime on 18.6.04).
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