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13 September 2002, 11:55 am
BG Group Clinches First Place by only 8 Minutes
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BG Group Sails to Windward © marinepics

Challenge Transat

After 3000 miles and three weeks of intense and competitive racing, BG Group has taken first place position in the Challenge Transat 2002 by just eight minutes over Logica.
BG crossed the finish line in Boston Harbour at precisely 06:46:38 GMT (2:46 am local time) this morning. 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, pursued each other for this prize. Throughout the event neither 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; predicting who would take the first place podium place proved impossible right up until the final few 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 Hurricane Gustav swept the fleet with 75 mile per hour winds and 25-foot seas, presenting a final challenge to the six teams that left Southampton on August 25.

However, the crews of BG and Logica were so intent on not allowing the other even the slightest advantage both sailed on through Gustav's fury without compromise in course or speed.

Although these conditions may seem somewhat hair raising for an ocean rookie Crew Volunteer, BG Group seemed to relish these conditions as the winning skipper, John Burfitt, comments: "I've been through hurricane force winds before with challenge yachts so am not too concerned, these boats are very tough and seaworthy, 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, 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 whilst BG Group tacked nearer the shore, which lost them vital miles.

Despite early problems with their watermaker Logica's methodical march towards the front started gaining speed when BG Group took the lead from Vail Williams on 27th August and, for the first time, the leader board started to change.

By 2nd September Logica had passed Vail Williams and begun what would become a ten-day duel for first with BG Group. On 3rd September 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 4th September 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 5th September.

At the time of going to print Vail Williams is 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 on Monday evening, local time.

Simon Walker was at the quayside in Boston to welcome the yachts in: "It's incredible to think that after 450 hours of racing there were just minutes between the top two boats."

"This demonstrates just what a tough race these guys have done particularly as they've 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.
Rachel Anning/ISAF News Editor
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