Another fantastic British sailing win. Phil Sharp wins Route du Rhum Class 40 17/11/06

British sailor, Phil Sharp crossed the finish line at 1021GMT last night to win Class 40 of the Route du Rhum recording a transatlantic crossing of 18 Days 10 hours and 21 minutes and beating a host of French sailors who traditionally dominate this race. It is a fantastic achievement for the Jersey based sailor who was competing in his first Route du Rhum and his major race in a 40ft boat.

After a poor start Sharp (25) chose a northerly route and took the lead from the French favourite Gildas Morvan. In a display of expert weather routing Sharp often broke away from the fleet following his own path to find more favourable conditions. Sharp maintained the lead and crossed the finish line last night in Guadeloupe at 1021GMT and a transatlantic crossing of 18 Days 10 hours and 21 minutes.

Sharp follows in the footsteps of Dame Ellen MacArthur’s who was the first English entry to win the Route du Rhum in 1998 on an Open 50 at the age of 22. On 6 November, a few days after he broke from his opponents to pick up a north-westerly route, Sharp hooked up at the lead of the 40-footer fleet and never gave it back. His option led him high in the north Atlantic where he had to face the most violent low pressure system of the race. Sharp finished the race in style waving flares infront of a welcome floatilla including his Father and Grandmother who had flown out to see his extrodinary victory.

Speaking on his arrival Sharp said: “This hasn’t really sunk in yet. It’s an amazing feeling to have won this fantastic race. It’s not often a British sailor does well in this race so I’m particularly proud today to crossed the line in first place.

“Going so far north really paid off in the end even though at times when the low pressure storms kicked in I wasn’t sure if I’d made the right choice. At one point the boat was laid flat in one particularly nasty storm and I lost my gennaker sail which was a major setback.

“It was quite stressful at times wondering where the rest of the fleet were especially at the end when the wind dropped and was managing about 1 knot. Luckily for me the rest of the guys were having the same problems.

“The finish was awesome, loads of boats had come out to see me and it was great to see my Dad there amongst them. It was a feeling I’ll never forget. I’m looking forward to having a few beers and will spend a bit of time in the Caribbean catching up on sleep.”

The victory should go a long way in raising the profile of the young sailor and should help him to realise his dream of competing in the Vendee Globe Around the World race in 2008.