Bilbao was buzzing with festivities last night to welcome the victorious skippers of the V5O 1/5/07

Last night, Monday 30 April, the people of Bilbao (Basque Country, Spain) celebrated victory for Bernard Stamm on Cheminees Poujoulat and Kojiro Shiraishi on Spirit of Yukoh. Hundreds of spectators on the water and lining the shores of the home port of Gexto greeted the two returning stars.

Bernard Stamm, onboard his Open 60 Cheminees Poujoulat, crossed the finish line of the third and final leg of the Velux 5 Oceans at 17:13 local time (15:13 GMT). It marked the end of a race that Bernard Stamm has dominated from day one, highlighting his impressive sailing skills, seamanship and unbeatable speed through the world’s most challenging oceans. Stamm finished the third leg from Norfolk, Virginia (USA) in just under 12 days and guaranteed a clean sweep of victories in every leg and a record lead over his adversaries. The popular skipper completed the 30,000 mile circumnavigation of the planet in an astounding 104 days, 14 days ahead of Shiraishi in second.

Stamm was greeted on the docks in Gexto, where his journey began on 22 October 2006, by hundreds of friends, family, supporters, sponsors and journalists, as well as the appreciative public of Bilbao. The Swiss skipper commented: “This is a great surprise for me because I did not set out as the favourite at the beginning of the race. The course that I prepared for and imagined was very different from the reality. The first storm broke up the fleet and then two of my main adversaries retired. It became a race of management rather than tactics.”

“It is difficult to describe on land how we live at sea. Even without the big competitors it remains a solo circumnavigation and a strategic race. You have to be careful and juggle the different weather systems. But in the end, anything can happen even up to the last minute. The boat dictates life onboard. You must dominate the boat and not be dominated by it. In the Velux 5 Oceans it is leg, stopover, leg, stopover. It truly is ping pong for the nerves. It is good when it stops and even better when you win it.”

Bernard arrived on the docks to the cheers of hundreds of fans. But only a short distance behind the Swiss skipper was the much admired Kojiro Shiraishi, who also deserved the applause of the Bilbao crowds. Competitively sailing an Open 60 for the first time in his distinguished career and with limited knowledge of the boat, his achievements in the Velux 5 Oceans have been spectacular. Kojiro crossed the finish line at 17:56:45 local time (15:56:45 GMT). His second place finished only a few miles behind Stamm confirmed his rise as a force to be reckoned with in the Open 60 circuit

Kojiro Shiraishi spoke of his admiration for Stamm’s performance: “Congratulations to Bernard! I am very honoured to have sailed together in the same class. I’m always very impressed by his sailing technique, especially on the second leg, it was fantastic. I can say it was rather ‘Artistique’ than ‘Technique’. I thank him for having taught me how to sail and how to read the meteo as a sailing friend. Thanks to his instruction, I can do a good sail on the last leg. I’m very proud of him and of his family. I arrive as your beer is still fresh and we are celebrating together for our efforts.”

Speaking about Bernard Stamm, David Adams, Race Director of the Velux 5 Oceans, added: “I have the utmost respect for Bernard. His race around the world has been a joy to watch. He has demonstrated exceptional skills in navigation, seamanship and discipline. The results speak for themselves. He now joins a very exclusive club with Philippe Jeantot and Christophe Auguin as two-time winners of this event. What Bernard has achieved in this race will not quickly be forgotten. His determination, stamina and capacity to sail fast and yet maintain his boat is brilliant.”

Adams then commented on Kojiro Shiraishi, stating: “They should be extremely proud of him in Japan and I know his mentor Yukoh Tada would be extremely proud. He was fantastic and we all wanted this result for him, his family and supporters. I first met him in this race in 1990 when he was shore crew for Yukoh Tada. Koji has stepped up to the mark and he should walk away with his head held high.”