After 3,000 miles and three weeks of intense and competitive racing, BG Group has taken first place in the Challenge Transat 2002 by just eight minutes over Logica. BG crossed the finish line in Boston, Massachusetts, Harbor at precisely 06:46:38 GMT (2:46 am local time) September 13. And, after hard, fast and constant racing in the Atlantic Ocean, Logica crossed in second place at 06:54:21 GMT just minutes after, having led for much of the latter stages.
BG Group and Logica have, for days and through good weather and foul, pursued each other for this prize. Throughout the event, neither vessel has given up, and despite an early lead by Vail Williams, Race 1 of the Challenge Transat came down to two boats and two teams and predicting who would take the first place podium place proved impossible right up until the final minutes.
From the outset, John Burfitt, skipper of BG Group boldly claimed that he was going to win–and indeed he did. However, this has not been an easy victory. The final hours were marked by drama and danger as the hurricane Gustav swept the fleet with 75 mile per hour winds and 25-foot seas, presenting one final challenge to the six teams that left Southampton on August 25. The crews of BG and Logica were so intent on not allowing the other even the slightest advantage both sailed on through Gustavs fury without compromise in course or speed.
BG Group seemed to relish these conditions, as witnessed by the comments of the winning skipper, John Burfitt: “Ive been through hurricane-force winds before with challenge yachts, so am not too concerned. These boats are very tough and seaworthy, and so long as the crew are tough and seaworthy enough to look after the boat, the boat will look after you. The first time I had a challenge boat in a blow I thought, Wow! I could sail this to hell and back, and two and a half years of challenge yachts has done nothing to change that opinion.”
However, in a shore-based interview in Boston, John took his hat off to Logica: “They handled the storm better and came up from two miles behind us.” Logica chose to tack north first while BG Group tacked nearer the shore, which lost them vital miles.
Despite early problems with their watermaker, Logicas methodical march toward the front started gaining speed when BG Group took the lead from Vail Williams on August 27 and for the first time, the leader board started to change.
By September 2, Logica had passed Vail Williams and began a 10-day duel for first with BG Group. On September 3, Logica passed BG Group and took first place. But by the next morning, BG Group had stolen the lead back. And so it went for the next eight days. On September 4, BG Group put 18 miles between itself and Logica. But within 24 hours, the Logica crew had clawed their way back to within spitting distance of their foe, finally passing BG Group to once again claim the front spot on September 5.
At the time of this report, Vail Williams was nearly into Boston to claim third place, with Spirit of Hong Kong in fourth, Team SpirIT in fifth, and retired BP Explorer in sixth place, expected to arrive by late September 16. Simon Walker was at the quayside in Boston to welcome the yachts: “Its incredible to think that after 450 hours of racing there were just minutes between the top two boats,” he said. “This demonstrates just what a tough race these guys have done particularly as theyve had to deal with the added obstacle of a hurricane, which could so easily have knocked the boats off course and dampened spirits and the dream of winning. Congratulations to BG Group for their incredible first place victory, which was a nail biting conclusion to a fascinating and hard fought race. The beer is on ice now for Vail Williams who are due in any minute.”
For more details, log onto the events website, www.challengetransat.com