Inaki AZKUNA, the Mayor of Bilbao attended the event, commenting, 'I am honoured to open the final prizegiving and to have these amazing people with us.'
One by one the skippers, whose days at sea span between 103 days for the winner Bernard STAMM of Switzerland and 159 days for British sailing legend Sir Robin KNOX-JOHNSTON, were received on stage by Race Director David ADAMS. Tributes were paid to everyone involved in the organisation of the race, from host cities to event organizers, as well as the sponsors and partners and the hard working volunteers across the world. Prizes were first presented by the Mayor of Bilbao for the podium finishers of leg 3, before Velux presented the prizes for the overall rankings in the race, based on the combined time of the three ocean legs.
Michael RASMUSSEN, General Manager Marketing of the Velux Group, presented the race prizes and commented, '123 people have started the race since the first edition in 1982 and only 79 have completed it. We have had a great team working on the race and always knew that the skippers had some serious people to look after them. It is essential in a tough race such as the VELUX 5 OCEANS and it is an amazing accomplishment for our four skippers to be here.'
As he went on stage to receive his prize as the Race Winner, Swiss skipper STAMM, who won all three legs onboard his Open 60 yacht Cheminees Poujoulat, also received a local hat from the Basque Country, presented by the Mayor of Bilbao. Accepting his second title, the defending champion added, 'Going at sea is always a pleasure for me and I won't retire for a long time! I have learnt a lot during the VELUX 5 OCEANS and I have been amazed by the warmth of the Basque people. I have met some great people during this race and it will remain a great memory for me.'
Finishing second in the overall ranking, Japanese skipper Kojiro SHIRAISHI on Spirit of Yukoh talked about the people who helped him to achieve his dreams. 'The best inspiration I have had during this race was Yukoh TADA and I wouldn't be here without him. I am just happy I have met so many inspiring people during this race. Now I would like to educate more Japanese about sailing and teach young Japanese to sail and to achieve their dreams. This is what I have always done.'
|Bernard STAMM dominated the race from start
Finally sailing legend KNOX-JOHNSTON, completing another solo round the world race 35 years after he was the first man to ever do it non-stop, added, 'The best part of the race is here in Bilbao. The friendship and the bound between myself, the skippers and the teams is something invaluable. I never really thought about sailing around the world 35 years after I did it for the first time but I am happy I have done it and I have learnt a lot from it'.
Double winner of the race, STAMM, did not want to forget those who could not be with them for this special moment. Tim TROY (USA), who fought so bravely to mark the start but never crossed the line, Mike GOLDING (GBR) and Alex THOMSON (GBR), who were in the middle of a dramatic rescue in the Southern Ocean before both retiring from the race, and finally Graham DALTON (NZL), still in Norfolk after not being arriving in America in time to make the start of the final leg.
The Swiss skipper added, 'I am happy that I have won the race but at the same time I am sad that all the skippers who were on the start line can't be here with us today to celebrate it. But at the end of the day, what matters is that they are all fine and made it back home with their families. I would like to say thank you to David ADAMS and all his team who have done a great job and would like to say thank you to Velux and the host towns for making this race happen.'
During the second leg, STAMM was also the first skipper to cross the 'Amundsen Gate' and therefore win the Amundsen Trophy, a prize donated by the official time keeper Amundsen Oslo. The Amundsen Trophy was set up to the first skipper to cross the 'Amundsen Gate' located at 163 degrees west longitude. This longitude marks the starting point and route of Roald AMUNDSEN´s expedition to become the first man to reach the South Pole in 1911. The Swiss crossed the longitude of 163W on 26 January between 11:30 and 12:00 UTC, some 3.5 days ahead of SHIRAISHI.
Other prizes awarded included SHIRAISHI accepting the Media Contribution Award for his consistent pictures, TV footage and logs from onboard Spirit of Yukoh. The Japanese adventurer won EUR 5,000 for his efforts over the course of the race. GOLDING won the Seamanship Award for his dramatic Southern Ocean rescue of THOMSON and will receive the Minori Saito Trophy. Ear rings were also given to BASURKO and KNOX-JOHNSTON, a tradition in the history of the race for skippers who round Cape Horn for the first time as part of this event.
Finally, KNOX-JOHNSTON won the Harry Mitchell Award. This award was usually given to the winner of Class II, but with no other class outside the Open 60s in this edition of the race, the prize was awarded to the skipper that had taken sailing to a new and broad audience. Harry MITCHELL sadly died at sea in the 1994 edition of the race and his family will donate £500 to a maritime charity of KNOX-JOHNSTON's choice.
The VELUX 5 OCEANS is the longest race for any individual in any sport. Over the first few days, the fleet will make their way along the northern coast of Spain to Cape Finistère where they will turn south towards the Southern Ocean. However, all of the skippers know that this race is a marathon and not a sprint. During the 30,000 miles sailed in the VELUX 5 OCEANS race, the yachts will encounter some of the most extreme sea and weather conditions on the planet.
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