Swiss Open 60 sailor Bernard Stamm breaks Mari Cha III's record

Everyone except Swiss Open 60 sailor Bernard Stamm has been cursing the bad weather recently. At 1134 GMT on Tuesday 6 February, the Open 60 Armor-Lux-foie Gras Bizac sailed by Stamm and his three crew flew across the line between the island of Ouessant and Cornwall’s Lizard Point, setting a new record for the fastest unassisted passage of a monohull eastwards across the north Atlantic. It took Stamm 8 days 20 hours and 56 minutes to make the passage from New York. His time breaks the previous record held by Bob Miller’s giant ketch Mari Cha III by just over four hours, but falls short of the outright record of 7 days 6 hours and 30 minutes, set by the catamaran Jet Services V in 1990 and the ‘monohull with power assisted sails’ record of 8 days 3 hours and 29minutes for the same route set by Bernard Tapie on the enormous 4 master Phocea (formerly Alain Colas’ Club Med).

Stamm, a well know Mini Transat sailor, built this boat himself to a design by Pierre Rolland. Rolland is the most prolific designer on the Mini circuit and the Open 60 ressembles an enlarged version of the boat sailed in the 1997 event. Armor-Lux-foie Gras Bizac was built for the Vendee Globe Challenge. Stamm was late launching her and he and Spanish sailor Javier Sanso were forced to qualify their boats at the 11th hour by sailing them across the Atlantic, from Gijon, Spain up to St Pierre & Miquelon and back singlehanded. After the Vendee start Stamm was performing well despite a few technical problems. Worst was his autopilots which all gradually burned out. At the time Stamm was not even into the South Atlantic and so he retired.

With the boat back in sailing order, with his three crew, Christophe Lebas, Jean Baptiste l’Olivier, Francois Scheeck set off from New York on Sunday,28 January at 1439GMT (0939 local) on the front of a depression. They managed to keep the wind all with the way across the Atlantic and regular polls of their boat never showed it sailing at less han 13 knots. More frequently the speed was around at 16-19 knots. Six days into the attempt they passed the Azores. At the time they needed to average 15knots in order to break Mari Cha III‘s record, and they were quite confident of the prospect of breaking the record as at the time, Stamm reported, they were averaging 19-23 knots.

Open 60 sailors have long felt that they could break this record. One of the last attempts was that of Italian Around Alone winner Giovanni Soldini aboard Fila. Soldini was ahead of the record when his boat was flipped and remained inverted. In the five minutes or so it took Soldini to cant the keel and get the boat upright, one of the crew in the cockpit, Andrea Romanelli, a yacht designer, had disappeared.