It’s official: Paul Cayard and his EF Language crew have won the months-long Whitbread Round the World Race, which began Sept. 21, 1997. Although they had clinched the victory last week after tallying an insurmountable lead, they had to complete the ninth and final leg to receive the trophy.
The victory makes Cayard the first American skipper to win the prestigious Whitbread Race. With finishes of 1 5 1 4 1 2 3 6 2, EF Language won three of the nine legs and had podium finishes (top three) in six legs.
EF Language sailed into Southampton, England, in second place, just 13 minutes behind Merit Cup, crossing the line at 1211 GMT. The 92 points raised the Swedish boat’s overall score to 836 points out of a possible 1,035. This put EF Language 138 points ahead of Merit Cup, which overtook Swedish Match in points to capture second place overall.
“Coming into the finish was unbelievable. We got hit once by a motorboat; not too badly damaged,” Cayard said. “There were so many boats jamming the Solent and Southampton Water, it was really remarkable.”
But it’s this close involvement of the spectators that makes the Whitbread unique, he added. “It’s one of the parts of the Whitbread that makes it tougher on the helmsmen and skippers, but it’s also one of the things that makes the Whitbread a great event. The people are right in there with you.”
Swedish Match, trailing EF Language in second place overall for much of the 32,000-nautical-mile ocean marathon, was fifth today, dropping to third place overall.
Boat / Points
1. EF Language / 836
2. Merit Cup / 698
3. Swedish Match / 689
4. Innovation Kvaerner / 633
5. Silk Cut / 630
6. Chessie Racing / 613
7. Toshiba / 528
8. BrunelSunergy / 415
9. EF Education / 275
Chessie Racing, skippered by AmericaOne tactician John Kostecki, was looking to move into the Top 3 this final leg, but finished a disappointing eighth and fell to sixth place overall.
Norway’s Innovation Kvaerner had one of its best finishes at third, moving into fourth overall, and Britain’s Silk Cut was fourth to leapfrog into fifth place overall.
Not the Way He Envisioned It
It goes without saying that Cayard is pleased with the win, although it didn’t happen in the way he expected.
“When you’re a competitor on [this] level, you always think you can win a race that you’re in. [Although] your vision of how you’re going win it can be different from time to time,” he said. “My vision of how we would win the Whitbread Round the World Race is we would have struggled a lot in the beginning, being in the middle of the pack after four or five legs, and slowly climbed our way out of it and won on the last leg.”
Will he do it again in 2001 when the race will make a new debut as the Volvo Round The World Race? “I don’t know if I’ll do it again,” Cayard said. “I must consider my family in that decision. If I don’t do it, it won’t be for lack of interest in the event.”
Focus on America’s Cup
In the meantime, he’s going to focus “110 percent” of his energy on his AmericaOne America’s Cup campaign. Sailing in the Whitbread was a risky decision on his part, he explains, but with the high visibility of not only competing in but winning the race, the round-the-world event was something of a booster rocket for the AmericaOne Challenge, improving the fund-raising picture.
After a few months’ break from sailing, Cayard says he may compete in a few match races later this year before beginning training on America’s Cup boats in Auckland in January 1999.