Some 52 years after the great Eric Tabarly won the OSTAR on the 44ft Pen Duick II, Loïck Peyron talks about racing the same boat across the Atlantic

It is 52 years since Eric Tabarly won the OSTAR. The late, great Frenchman’s victory, on his first ever solo Atlantic race, was feted in France and ignited a passion for solo ocean racing that persists today.

In that half a century, ocean racing yachts and technology have changed radically, but now a sailor every bit as great as Tabarly – and arguably more versatile – is taking the helm of the yacht Tabarly sailed to victory in 1964. Peyron is racing in The Transat bakerly from Plymouth to New York.

Peyron, three times winner of this race and the record holder, is taking the helm of Tabarly’s 44ft ketch Pen Duick II.

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In 1964, Pen Duick II was the only dedicated race yacht on the dockside. She was of plywood construction and, by the standards of the day, a lightweight yacht. In today’s terms she is comparatively heavy (and heavier than she was originally due to her engine and batteries), and by a huge margin the slowest boat in the 25-strong Transat bakerly fleet.

Eric Tabarly's Pen Duick II is being sailed in The Transat bakerly 2016 by Loïck Peyron

Eric Tabarly’s Pen Duick II is being sailed in The Transat bakerly 2016 by Loïck Peyron

Peyron is electing to sail her in the old style, using paper charts and a sextant for navigation. He will have no modern communications equipment nor access to weather information or forecasting.

In this video, Peyron explained to me his motivation, how he expects to live aboard and offers this look around Pen Duick II.

Peyron will be hostage to the weather in a way that skippers racing modern yachts are not. Not only has he no modern forecasting aids on board, but at an average of 8-9 knots Peyron cannot take evasive action in the ready way that the modern giant trimarans can.

In 24 hours, Peyron could only possibly shift his position relative to an incoming weather system by 100-150 miles. By comparison, in the same time François Gabart on the 31m trimaran MACIF could give it a berth of 450 miles.

But it will be a very much less stressful race. Peyron muses that the biggest solo race yachts now sail at five times the speed Tabarly was able to make in 1964 (finishing the 3,000-mile race in 27 days).

The difference is one Peyron is interested to re-experience. “If I was an F1 driver, there would not be such a difference,” he reflects. “Cars are not five times faster than they were 50 years ago.”