MAY 24, 1998
t'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.
Paul Cayard, the first American skipper to win the Whitbread.
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."
EF Language and escort
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.