1964 OBSERVER TROPHY STAR
The second OSTAR in 1964 was the launch pad for one the most influential figures in the history of single-handed sailing, the development of sailing as a sport in France and in offshore race boat design. In 1960 Francis Chichester had managed the crossing in 40 days, then 32 year-old French naval lieutenant Eric Tabarly won the 1964 race taking just 27 days aboard his 44ft ketch Pen Duick II.
A total of seventeen yachtsmen enterned the race. All those who sailed in the first race were back again, though only Francis Chichester and Blondie Hasler were sailing the same boats. Val Howells sailed a 35 foot (10.7 m) steel cutter, Akka, a production yacht he was delivering to America; David Lewis switched to a catamaran Rehu Moana, one of three multihulls in the race; and Jean Lacombe had moved from his 21 foot (6.4 m) Cap Horn to his new 22 foot (6.7 m) glass fibre sloop Golif.
Two yachts were unable to compete: Arthur Piver was unable to deliver his trimaran from the US and so missed his second OSTAR; Charles McLendon, an American living in London, suffered a fire on his 48’ ketch Morna – which would have been the largest boat in the race.
Two changes were introduced for the second race: the finish line was switched from New York to Newport, Rhode Island, so the competitors could avoid the marine traffic at New York; and a prize was awarded for fastest monohull on corrected time (using a handicap based on waterline length).
Publicity from the first OSTAR turned the second race into a media circus with a number of the 15 competitors signed up by national newspapers. Tabarly, the only Frenchman in the race, was the sailor’s favourite for the race with the advantage of sailing the largest boat and the only one purpose-built for the event. He had also carried out an in depth study of the weather and physically was very fit. Arriving in Newport, Rhode Island he had no prior knowledge of his win – he had not used his radio during the race – and almost as a passing comment let slip that his self-steering system had only worked for the first 8 days of the 27 days it took him to complete the course.
At a depressed time in France, Tabarly became an overnight hero and for his endeavour was presented with his country’s highest honour, the Legion d’Honneur by President de Gaulle. France’s love affair with solo offshore racing had just begun.