A one-way ticket across the Atlantic

Tuesday 21st July 1960 saw the winner of the very first Observer Single-handed Trans-Atlantic Race reach ‘home’. 115 people had expressed an interest in taking part in the race.  In the end there had been eight entries but just five actually took part!  In fact only four were at the starting line on 11th June 1960 as the fifth –  Jean Lacombe – arrived late and started three days after the others! All of the boats were mono-hulls – all future races would include multi-hulls.  It was also the only time the race sailed from Plymouth to New York City.

The five sailors tried a variety of routing strategies. ‘Blondie’ Hasler chose a northern route to avoid the weather depressions; Francis Chichester and David Lewis stayed closer to the great circle; Val Howells chose more southerly routes.

Francis Chichester had by far the longest boat, his 40-foot (12 m) Gipsy Moth III, and this was reflected in the results. He completed the journey in 40 days 12 hours 30 minutes.  Blondie Hasler in is 26-foot ‘Jester’ came 2nd in 48 days 12 hours 2 minutes. David Lewis in 25-foot ‘Cardinal Verture’ completed the journey in 55 days 0 hours 50 minutes while Val Howells in ‘EIRE’ – another 25-footer finished in 62 days 5 hours 50 minutes. Jean Lacombe, the last to leave in his 21½ foot ‘Cape Horn’, took 74 days!

I can remember hearing some of this on the radio and Dad saying something like

They must be ***** mad’.


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