The British/Aussie pair, Alex Bennett and Paul Larsen, on board One Dream One Mission, arrived as victors of the Transat Jacques Vabre Open 50 division in Bahia, Brazil, at 0424hrs 45s GMT on Thursday 22 November 2001. Their yellow boat, none other than the ex-Aqua Quorum of Pete Goss from the 1996 Vendée, and the ex-Kingfisher on which Ellen MacArthur won the 1998 Route Du Rhum, covered the 4,300m-course in 18 days, 16 hours, 34 minutes and 45 seconds. They also finished inside two days of the winning Open 60 boat, Sill Plein Fruit.
These two gladiators were notorious for being unstoppable in their mission to win from well before the start gun was fired, and inexhaustible at pushing their older generation 50-footer at 110 per cent the whole way. Mike Golding commented last night on his fellow Anglo Saxons’ victory: “So much about sailing is about preparation, maintenance and keeping in contact with the latest technology. Even though Saving is the faster boat, sailing isn’t just about that one element – it’s the whole package, and Alex has shown he can deliver that.”
In fact Bennett’s nearest rival, Saving (Le Youdec/Bacave), had no weather router, whereas One Dream One Mission had Lee Bruce to guide them through the black spots in this classic double-handed transatlantic race, which crossed the Equator for the first time. In the final downwind stretch in light airs, where Saving should have excelled, instead they suffered from technical problems and admitted to be racing at not quite such an infernal pace. This did not stop Saving being a nemesis for Alex and Paul right from start to finish, and even in the last 40 miles Alex and Paul would not slack off, adding in their own typical style: “It’s all on until the fat lady sings!”
With this victory, Alex Bennett, the 25-year-old skipper who came fifth in the 1999 Mini Transat and was part of Pete Goss’ Team Phillips crew, should catapult himself towards his ultimate dream and mission in life: to take the start of the 2004 Vendée Globe.
In the Open 60 fleet, the last three boats have arrived. Miranda Merron with French co-skipper Fred Brulé, brought Un Univers de Service across the finish line at 1929hrs 45s GMT on Wednesday 21 November, to take ninth place in the rankings behind Bobst-Group – Armor Lux (Stamm/Riou). They covered 4,565 miles in 18 days, 7 hrs, 39 mins, 45s, at an average speed of 10.38 knots. The girls recorded the lowest average boat speed but knowingly stuck to the rum line and thus beat in by just 45 minutes Sollac Atlantique, skippered by French Figaro experts Seeten and Drouglazet.
Finally, Richard Tolkien and Robert Wingate on board This Time crossed the line at 0102hrs GMT exactly in 10th place to close the Open 60 class race. They are delighted to have completed the race in 18 days 13hrs 12 minutes, just 12 minutes inside the goal, which they had set themselves, to finish 48rhs after the winner. They have exceeded the boat1s potential and average speed, as they covered 4522 miles on the water at an average speed of 10.4 knots, an increase of two knots since it won the Transat Jacques Vabre in 1995 under Jean Maurel’s helm.
Pindar Systems, skippered by Emma Richards and Mikaela Von Koskull, were delivered from hell yesterday. Emma wrote in her first email, after problems with their Sat C stopped all communications for 50 hrs: “The reward came at 1800 this evening, when we passed very close to the rugged landscape of East Ascension island – or ‘Assumption’ island – as we have only assumed it was here after five days blindly following the compass through various bad tacking angles. So now we only have two and a half Fastnet races to go – all downwind!” Their ETA with 1240 miles to go is currently Monday 26 November.