Michel Desjoyeaux has claimed victory in the 60ft ORMA multihull class in The Transat and sets new transatlantic race record

At 2129 GMT last night 38-year-old Frenchman Michel Desjoyeaux crossed the finish line of The Transat at the entrance to Boston Harbour to claim victory in the 60ft ORMA multihull class of the historic solo transatlantic race.

Emotional scenes surrounded the arrival of Michel Desjoyeaux on board Geant as he set a new transatlantic race record from Plymouth to Boston of 8 days, 8 hours, 29 minutes and 55 seconds. He raced the 2800 mile course at an average speed of 13.61 knots. The previous record for the race was held by solo round the world record holder Francis Joyon who set a record of 9 days, 23 hours and 21 minutes in the last race in 2000. Desjoyeaux has taken 38 hours and 52 minutes off the record.

Desjoyeaux crossed the finish line between Deer Island Light and Long Island Head Light at the entrance to Boston Harbour, four miles from downtown Boston, at a speed of 23 knots. Support boats and spectators were awaiting his arrival. This classic solo race that began in 1960 is raced against the prevailing winds and conditions of the North Atlantic and The Transat race lived up to its reputation as the toughest transatlantic race. A series of low depressions delivered 45 knot head winds and huge seas as the 60ft multihulls battled their way across. In the final stages of the race, the risk of icebergs forced the boats south. The tough conditions have caused some damage in the race fleet including two dismastings and one boat, Cheminees Poujoulat-Armor Lux, that lost its keel in the 60ft monohull class.

A total of 37 boats, included 12 ORMA trimarans, started the race at 1300 GMT on 31 May and to date five boats have abandoned the race. The remainder of the ORMA fleet will finish in Boston over the next few days while the Open 60 monohull class leaders are expected to arrive from Saturday (12 June) onwards.

ORMA 60 Race Summary

Michel Desjoyeaux on board the 60ft multihull Geant had taken the lead of the 2,800-mile single-handed transatlantic race from Plymouth to Boston by the 0500GMT positions poll on 2 June after less than 48 hours of racing following the start at 1300GMT on 31 May.

Weather conditions experienced by the 12 boats in the ORMA 60 multihulls class sent them further north than in previous races and the third night of the race saw them tackling a giant North Atlantic depression bringing with it 45 knot winds and ferocious seas. These were the worst weather conditions the multihulls had experienced since the 2002 Route du Rhum race when the fleet were decimated by hurricane force winds.

Aiming straight for the centre of the first low the leading multis in the north tacked first and took a fast ride out of the back of the low before facing the next onslaught. In total the multihulls had to tackle three low systems – not exceptional conditions for this time of year. Due to their northerly route the direct route to Boston would have taken the boats through a densely populated area of icebergs to the east of Newfoundland, but in a gentleman’s agreement, the skippers agreed upon an ice exclusion zone (47degN 47degW) moving their course south. From Newfoundland on the weather changed to the other extreme as the skippers were kept glued to their tillers, as they had to negotiate extensive periods of light winds.

Desjoyeau’s race

31.5.04: Second across the start line and first ORMA 60 to reach the Eddystone Lighthouse – awarded Omega Seamaster watch.

1.6.04: First big low pressures approaches: “I’m too old to take all these waves!”

2.6.04: 0500GMT Geant takes the lead. Extreme close racing with Sodebo (Thomas Coville) only 200m apart at times through the night. Picks up speed in 35 knots, reaching conditions: “These are good winds for us. It is what the boats are designed for.” Michel Desjoyeaux/Geant current holder of Omega 24hr speed record 440 miles recorded between 0500-0500 GMT.

3.6.04: Head for centre of first major low pressure system and tacks south out of the low at approx 2030 GMT.

4.6.04: Reports 44 knot winds and 5-6m seas during the night. Claimed to have slept all night and allowing the automatic pilots to steer the boat. ORMA skippers agree to self-imposed ice waypoint 47 N 47 W.

5.6.04: Heads straight for Flemish Cap – closest ORMA to ice waypoint.

7.6.04: 150-mile spread between Geant, Sodebo and Groupama and his lead seems unassailable.

8.6.04: Reports fast and flat sailing conditions in early morning and has a 64-mile lead over Sodebo at 0500 GMT. Geant slowed by lighter airs – only makes 9 miles in two hours – and Sodebo closes down lead to 26.6 miles at 1700 GMT poll with 81 miles to the finish.