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      American skipper, Kip Stone, in his very first solo offshore race has won the Open 50 monohull class on board 'Artforms' - it is a spectacular performance from a sailor who until competing in The Transat had not raced solo before.

Stone has also earned in place in the history books as the first American to score a victory since Phil Weld won the 1980 edition of the race on board his 51ft trimaran 'Moxie' in 17 days, 23 hours and 12 minutes.
Stone crossed the Boston Harbour finish line at 18:20:27 GMT yesterday evening (15.6.04) in an elapsed time of 15 days, 5 hours, 20 minutes and 27 seconds at an average speed of 7.66 knots. To compare, Stone has finished ahead of four Open 60s still racing and only one day slower than the Open 60s finishing in 6th, 7th and 8th place, sailed by skippers who have graced the podiums of major solo events.

Stone was welcomed home by his family and employees from his Maine T-shirt company, Artforms, which he grew into a successful company - successful enough to fund his dream of racing solo in The Transat. Stone launched his new Open 50 Artforms designed by Mervyn Owen last September and then sailed her solo from New Zealand to the UK which gave Stone the opportinity to get to know Artforms inside out - obviously, this has reaped big dividends.
In the early stages of The Transat, Kip Stone fought for the lead with fellow New Englander Joe Harris on board Wells Fargo-American Pioneer. Not more than 60 miles separated the two of them as they traded first and second place. Finally, Stone got a grip of the lead when on day ten, Harris seeing that he was losing miles to Artforms, dived south in search of more wind. Unfortunately, for Harris this did not pay in the way he hoped and Stone went on to increase his lead day by day until approaching the finish in Boston, he had built up an incredible 260 mile lead.
In setting this pace, Stone has taken a good 13 hours off the transatlantic race record of 15 days, 18 hours, 29 minutes set by 60ft multihull skipper, Giovanni Soldini, in the 1996 race.

In the 50ft multihull class, French skipper Dominique Demachy on board his Erik Lerouge designed GiFi claimed third place crossing the finish line at 0203 GMT this morning in a time of 15 days, 13 hours, 3 minutes and 56 seconds - finishing a little over 35 hours after French winner Eric Bruneel on Trilogic who set a blinding pace in this race that no one else could match.

For Demachy, though, it is a huge achievement in his first solo transatlantic race. If it was not for a career, selling consumer household goods for a company called GiFi, Demachy may have started his solo professional racing career many years ago. But 15 years later, having grown the company from three shops to 250, Demachy realised he could afford to buy himself a boat and pursue his long-standing dream.

Demachy raced tenaciously to battle for second place in the 50ft multi class with American skipper, Rich Wilson on Great American II, for much of the 2800 mile course. By the end of day four, Demachy went into second following the retirement of class favourite Franck-Yves Escoffier on Crepes Whaou !, 40 miles ahead of Wilson. The boats went far north, and Wilson furthest north at 52 degrees, got ahead of Gifi by the afternoon of day six but two days later as Wilson moved south, Demachy took control. At times only 10 miles separated the boats and Demachy held on to second until positions came through at 1300 GMT on 11.6.04 that showed Wilson, now south of Gifi, had moved into second place. Wilson would not cede this position and with little opportunity to pass as they closed on the US east coast, Demachy had to settle for third place.

With the third place finish of Demachy and the retirements of Crepes Whaou ! and Mike Birch's Nootka, this only leaves French skipper Etienne Hochedé racing PIR2 to finish (current ETA lunchtime on 18.6.04).
There will be no pre-finish, 'last-few-miles', moderation in pressure or pace for the seven monohulls and one multihull still racing in The Transat 2004. All boats must cross the finish line outside Boston Harbour by 04:18:08 GMT this Sunday (exactly seven days after the first monohull - Mike Golding on Ecover - completed the course) to officially qualify as a race finisher.

It is essential that the remaining IMOCA Open 60 monohulls achieve this goal as all four of the skippers are using The Transat as a vital qualifying race for the non-stop, round the world, single-handed Vendée Globe this November. The 60ft monohull fleet is currently lead by Norbert Sedlacek (Austria One) positioned in the middle of The Gulf of Maine to the NE of Boston with 206 miles to the finish, having rounded Nova Scotia's southern promontory, Cape Sable, in the early hours of this morning. For three days, Karen Leibovici (Atlantica-Charentes Maritimes) has tailed Sedlacek, rarely allowing the Austrian skipper to increase his lead beyond a 30 mile margin.
To the NE of the leading pair, Anne Liardet (Quiksilver Edition) is heading SW along the coast of Nova Scotia, but has lost just under 49 miles to Sedlack and Leibovici overnight as she continues to nurse the thirteen year old 60ft monohull with a broken boom for the final 402 miles of the course. Liardet's loss has been Charles Hedrich's gain and the French skipper has moved into eleventh place ahead of Quiksilver Edition as he heads west on the same latitude as Boston with Objectif 3.

The 50ft monohull class leader, Joe Harris (Wells Fargo-American Pioneer), continues to hold a 116 mile lead over Jacques Bouchacourt (Okami) with an identical distance to the finish line. Last night, Okami stalled slightly sailing 35 miles off Nova Scotia's eastern shoreline, allowing Harris to build a 116 mile lead in the open waters of the Gulf of Maine to the south. Meanwhile, Open 50 backmarker, Roger Langevin, finally sailed Branec III clear of The Grand Banks after a frustrating four day tacking marathon and is overjoyed to hold a stable heading although the irrepressible French skipper is conscious that he must race 560 miles in three and a half days to legitimately complete the race.

Whatever weather conditions confront the skippers over the next two days, all the skippers will remember the wise sailing maxim: "To finish a race, first you must finish". The Transat 2004 skippers and their baots have had an exhausting race and - with few exceptions - will be suffering sleep deprivation and fatigue; twin evils that can breed errors in judgement and force simple mistakes. The boats will also face natural and manmade hazards associated with coastal waters: fishing traps, shipping lanes, shallows, localised climatic anomalies and floating debris.
There will be no opportunity for the competitors to break their individual racing regimes until they cross the Boston finish line as the potential of disaster and disappointment may stalk them all the way to Rowes Wharf. In 1980, Czeslaw Gogolkiewicz - racing a 56ft monohull - collided with a fishing boat shortly before the finish. The trawler's fishing gear swept across the decks of Raczynski II and narrowly avoided injuring the Polish skipper. Four years later during the next edition of the race, British skipper - Rachel Haywood - approached the finish line having suffered total electronic failure on board 35ft monohull, Loiwing. In thick fog and with no depth sounding instruments, Haywood ran hard aground within walking distance of the finish line.

For latest positions go to http://www.thetransat.com and click on the 'Latest Race Data/Latest Positions' on the orange bar and then click on leaderboard. Positions are available daily every 2 hours from 0600BST-1800BST.
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For further information, please contact Lou Newlands or Isabel Genis
isabel@offshorechallenges.com (French/Italian/Spanish speaking)
T: +44 (0)870 063 0218
F: +44 (0)20 7681 2912
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