History 1997-98



Southampton - Cape Town - Fremantle - Sydney - Auckland - São Sebastião - Fort Lauderdale - Baltimore - La Rochelle - Southampton

EF Language
Paul Cayard / USA
Elapsed time
Farr Whitbread 60


  • Volvo sponsored the race and the Volvo Trophy was awarded to the winner.
  • It was the last time the race was run under the Whitbread Round the World Race banner. Thereafter the race was sold and renamed the Volvo Ocean Race to reflect its new owners and sponsors.
  • Points replaced elapsed time for the first time.
  • The Whitbread 60 was the only class to be raced.
  • EF Language and her race debutant skipper Paul Cayard won the race overall at their first attempt, with a leg to spare.
  • An event website was used for the first time.
  • Round the clock tracking was used.
  • Email from the boats became available.
  • Lawrie Smith was sold to Silk Cut by the EF campaign in order to spearhead his own British effort. Cayard was hired by EF as his replacement. It was the first, and remains the only, time this type of transfer has happened.
  • Cape Town was re-instated as the first port of call. It had been dropped since 1985-86 for political reasons.
  • Dennis Conner’s Toshiba was disqualified from Leg 5 after using her engine to reverse back to clear weed.
  • BrunelSunergy sailed around the stationary fleet just after Cape Horn to find wind and finish second to EF Language.
  • Toshiba was penalised two places on Leg 8 for a rules infringement, dropping her leg position down to last. Her navigator, Andrew Cape, resigned.
  • One boat did not complete the course.
  • Two were dismasted. 
Podium positions (on points)
EF Language 125 points
Merit Cup 110 points
Innovation Kvaerner 97 points


Leg 1
Leg 2
Leg 3
Leg 4
Leg 5
Leg 6
Leg 7
Leg 8
Leg 9
Southampton - Cape Town
Cape Town - Fremantle
Fremantle - Sydney
Sydney - Auckland
Auckland - Saõ Sebastião
Saõ Sebastião - Fort Lauderdale
Fort Lauderdale - Baltimore
Baltimore/Annapolis - La Rochelle
La Rochelle - Southampton
31,600 nm
10 boats


Start date Leg distance Winner
EF Language
Swedish Match
EF Language
Merit Cup
EF Language
Silk Cut
Merit Cup

Leg 1

Southampton to Cape Town

Despite the lively start from the Solent and some high speeds in the first few hours, light airs would prevail for most of Leg 1, interspersed with violent squalls.

Consequently, a leg that was supposed to take 30 days took some a lot longer, leaving many crews short on rations. Anxious to save weight and maximise speed potential, the skippers had allowed only essentials onboard, and some crew lost up to 10 per cent of their body weight. 

By day 28, EF Language had taken the lead and proved impossible to catch, crossing the finish line in Cape Town first, some 20 hours ahead of Merit Cup with Innovation Kvaerner finishing third two hours later. 

Ashore Chris Dickson resigned from Toshiba, elevating Whitbread veteran Paul Standbridge from his watch leader position to skipper. The previous race winner, Ross Field retired America’s Challenge due to lack of funds, EF Language became co-favourite to win overall after Cayard’s unexpectedly brilliant performance on Leg 1.

Leg 2

Cape Town to Fremantle

Most boats kept inshore on the way out of Cape Town, except Swedish Match, who veered off sharply and headed west. Co-skipper Erle Williams had spotted a freighter offshore and could see smoke curving steeply away from the stack. He consulted with skipper Gunnar Krantz, who immediately swung the bow round and headed in the same direction. They found the wind and by day five, had extended a lead of 205 nm over second-placed Innovation Kvaerner

As soon as she reached the Roaring Forties, Swedish Match took off.   Her lead was almost 200 miles when she crossed the Fremantle finish line. 

The boats took a battering in the Southern Ocean, but there were no casualties. On day 13, Silk Cut lodged a new 24-hour world monohull record of 449.1 Cayard responded to the challenge laid down by Silk Cut by taxing EF Language and her crew to the limits. The boat broached in gale force winds, and while there was damage everywhere, no one was hurt. Later, after finishing in fifth place, Cayard was repeatedly told by members of his campaign not to push boat and crew so hard.

Leg 3

Fremantle to Sydney

The 2,250-mile sprint around the south coast of Australia proved a bit of a slog. On day two, Innovation Kvaerner, the overall points’ leader in the race, called for assistance after a structural problem in the lower part of the mast was discovered a. She headed towards the shore and dropped anchor, while a helicopter lowered a repair kit. 

The same mast problems appeared on Swedish Match, but she was further offshore than Innovation Kvaerner so heading inshore to drop anchor and make repairs was not an option. The team continued with a conservative sail plan, knowing the mast could come down at any time. To lessen the risk, they went south to find favourable winds and, a few miles out from Sydney, went into the lead. 

Alby Pratt was tossed overboard of Innovation Kvaerner during an early morning sail change. He was retrieved when a crew member caught sight of his strobe light. 

The fleet was bunched as it entered Sydney Harbour in darkness and six teams arrived within 11 minutes. EF Language was five minutes and eight seconds ahead of second-placed Swedish Match after 2,250 miles of racing. Less than a minute later, Chessie Racing also crossed the line with Merit Cup was 16 seconds behind.

Leg 4

Sydney to Auckland

Dennis Conner took over from Paul Standbridge on board Toshiba to see for himself why the boat was lagging behind. At the start, he crossed the line three seconds early, but after 24 hours, he was among the top three. When Toshiba joined Swedish Match in the route south – EF Language opted to go north and their advantage over the rest of the fleet grew, though as they approached Cape Reinga it was Swedish Match who held a six-mile lead. EF Language was second to last. But within hours, Swedish Match slipped into a windless hole and stopped dead. 

By the time Swedish Match found wind, Merit Cup had overtaken and regained the lead, with Toshiba close behind. 

The last miles were sailed in 45 knots of wind. Merit Cup ripped through the convoy of spectator boats at breakneck speed and crossed the line first, blowing her mainsail to shreds as she did so. Toshiba followed two minutes later. 

EF Language finished fourth, but earned enough points to retain the overall lead. Onboard Silk Cut, Smith quashed the rumours of crew discontent by declaring on his arrival in sixth place that there would be no crew changes. He then replaced Steve Hayles, the navigator, and watch captain Neil Graham with Vincent Geake and Gerard Mitchell. Conner, meanwhile, put Standbridge back in charge of Toshiba.

Leg 5

Auckland to São Sebastião

Light airs greeted the fleet on start day and they drifted away from Auckland. After several days of light airs, 30 – 45 knots of wind set in. The all-women crew on EF Education had to take emergency action to avoid a catastrophic dismasting, while leader EF Language passed a huge iceberg to leeward. 

While running in 30 knots, the crew of Silk Cut heard a loud bang and a section of mast above the second set of spreaders fell. Under jury-rig they headed towards Ushuaia. A few days later EF Education was also dismasted. Both teams retired from the leg.

Meanwhile, EF Language was enjoying the best of the conditions, taking a lead of 350 nm while the rest of the fleet was becalmed. 

BrunelSunergy made the radical decision to split from the pack and leave the Falkland Islands to port. This not the ‘done thing’ since the winds and weather on the eastern side of the islands were notoriously hard to fathom. The move worked and BrunelSunergy overtook four boats to finish in second place.

Chessie Racing then went the same way and moved into fourth, just behind Innovation Kvaerner, but no one could catch EF Language, who was rampaging towards the finish 500 miles ahead. 

EF Language eventually finished three days ahead of BrunelSunergy. Toshiba was stripped of her points for fifth place after the race committee, who had discovered the engine seals had been broken, lodged a protest. Unbeknown to the skipper, the crew had used the engine to reverse the boat to remove some kelp from the foils and Toshiba was disqualified from the leg.

Leg 6

São Sebastião to Fort Lauderdale

The start of Leg 6 was a mess. Spectators cluttered the starting area, causing turmoil and confusion and the fleet without enough wind to push clear, was caught in the melee. It wasn’t until after Ilha Bela that the wind picked up to 28 knots and the fleet hoisted spinnakers and set off on a lively reach, but it didn’t last. After an initial blast, temperatures soared, the seas grew still and the sails flapped and slatted. Below it was a stifling 50 degrees and bunks were soaked. Silk Cut opted to stay near the shore – two miles from the beach at one point – and briefly, they led, but soon after crossing the equator the spectre of EF Language loomed. 

EF Language overtook Silk Cut, but the margins were negligible. Eventually Silk Cut posted her first leg win, one hour ahead of EF Language who held the overall lead. It was generally felt they were uncatchable.

Leg 7

Fort Lauderdale to Baltimore

Crab pots, tides and sandbanks would define this 870 nm short dash to Baltimore, an area familiar to the Chessie Racing crew since Baltimore was their homeport, while on board Toshiba, Dennis Conner once again stepped on to take the helm. 

Riding the Gulf Stream north became a boat-slamming affair as the fleet beat into 20 -25 knot headwinds, which created a choppy and confused seaway. BrunelSunergy took the lead after she headed east in search of more breeze and flatter sea, but by the time they reached the entrance to the Chesapeake Bay, EF Language was only 11 miles astern. The Dutch team fought to keep EF Language at bay and crossed the finish line 32 minutes ahead of Swedish Match, who had beaten EF Language by 30 seconds. 

Toshiba, meanwhile, was engaged in a battle much further back in the fleet, racing Chessie Racing. In what was almost a photo finish, Toshiba crossed just 10 seconds ahead of the hometown boat. A protest was lodged against Toshiba by EF Education, for reckless sailing that resulted in a port-starboard incident after dark on the first night. The international jury upheld the protest and Toshiba was relegated to last in the leg, having been penalised two places. Shortly after, Toshiba’s navigator, Andrew Cape, resigned.

Leg 8

Annapolis to La Rochelle

The restart for Leg 8 was in the neighbouring port of Annapolis. EF Language had already secured a comfortable lead of more than 100 points over everyone else but it wasn’t enough to guarantee victory. If Swedish Match finished in La Rochelle first, and EF Language broke down and was at the back of the fleet, Swedish Match could still win. 

American John Kostecki took over as skipper of Chessie Racing and New Zealander Murray Ross stepped into Cape’s shoes on Toshiba. Paul Standbridge was back as skipper. 

While EF Language was engaged in keeping Swedish Match at bay, Toshiba led out of Annapolis. Swedish Match had headed north, followed by EF Language who had wanted to go south but was terrified of letting Swedish Match out of her sight. Toshiba held the middle ground and moved into second place and then, on day nine took the lead.

As the fleet approached La Rochelle in France, Silk Cut was competing with Toshiba for a leg win. After almost 13 days at sea, Toshiba crossed the line to claim her first leg victory of the race. Ten minutes later, Silk Cut finished, taking second place. 

Behind them, EF Language continued to shadow Swedish Match and crossed the line in sixth, three hours ahead of her, and doing so scored enough points to win with one leg still to race.

Leg 9

La Rochelle to Southampton

The last 450 miles came down to filling the two remaining positions on the podium and the contenders included Silk Cut, whose second place into La Rochelle had moved her into fifth place overall had a slim chance of finishing third. 

After a few hours, less than one mile separated the four leading boats: Merit Cup, EF Language, Silk Cut and BrunelSunergy. With 60 miles left to the finish, it was Merit Cup and EF Language who was leading the pack, while behind them, Silk Cut and Innovation Kvaerner were vying for third place. 

The last few miles were incredibly tense. With strong tides and light airs, none of which were favourable, the going was slow and Merit Cup’s lead was just one-tenth of a mile over EF Language, but it was enough to claim a slender win. 

Innovation Kvaerner was third, beating Silk Cut by 10 minutes and taking fourth place overall. Swedish Match’s their final leg position of fifth, allied with Merit Cup’s win, dropped them from second to third. 

It was the last running of the Whitbread Round the World Race. The event was sold and was renamed the Volvo Ocean Race to reflect its new owners and sponsors.

Crews 1997-98

Sailor by team

EF Language

Josh Belsky, Curtis Blewett, Paul Cayard, Mark Christensen, Justin Clougher, Marco Constant, Steve Erickson, Justin Ferris, Paul Murray, Klas Nylöf, Curt Oetking, Magnus Olsson, Mark Rudiger, Rick Tomlinson, Kimo Worthington

Merit Cup

Paolo Bassani, Bouwe Bekking, Grant Dalton, Ray Davies, Tom Dodson, Jan Dekker, Jared Henderson, Brad Jackson, Jeremy Lomas, Guido Maisto, Mike Quilter, Dirk de Ridder, Mike Sanderson, Kevin Shoebridge, Glen Sowry, Ian Stewart

Swedish Match

Rodney Ardern, Matthew Humphries, Oscar Karlsson, Gunnar Krantz, Tim Kroger, Mikael Lundh, Tony Mutter, Roger Nilson, David Rolfe, Craig Satterthwaite, Erle Williams, Magnus Woxén

Innovation Kvaerner

Ed Baird, Stuart Bettany, Richard Bouzaid, Jim Close, Sebastian Destremau, Knut Frostad, Torben Grael, Espen Guttormsen, Ross Halcrow, Christian Horn, Johansson Cameron, Lewis Pierre Mas, Robbie Naismith, Alby Pratt, Tony Rae, Sveinung Torgersen, Marcel van Triest , Jacques Vincent, Barney Walker, Nicholas Willetts, David Witt

Silk Cut

Stu Bannatyne, Jason Carrington, Jan Dekker, Jez Fanstone, Vincent Geake, Neil Graham, Steve Hayles, Gordon Maguire, Neal McDonald, Gerard Mitchell, Craig Nutter, Timothy Powell, Lawrie Smith, Adrian Stead

Chessie Racing

James Allsopp, Gavin Brady, Derek Clark, George Collins, Rick Deppe, Mark Fischer, Greg Gendell, Tony Harman, Jerry Kirby, John Kostecki, Antonio Piris, Anthony Rey, David Scott, Dee Smith, Grant Spanhake, Jonathan Swain, Mike Toppa, Paul Van Dyke, Joan Vila, Stuart Wilson


David Allen, David Blanchfield, Andrew Cape, Sean Clarkson, Dennis Conner, Steve Cotton, Chris Dickson, Daniel Fong, Kelvin Harrap, Ross Macdonald, Nick Moloney, Mike Powers, Murray Ross, Jeff Scott, Alan Smith, Paul Standbridge, Kennth Venn, Chris Ward


Hans Bouscholte, Ivan Bunner, João Cabeçadas, Eric Drouglazet, Roy Heiner, Hans Horrevoets, Herve Jan, Michael Joubert, Frits Koek, Gideon Messink, Stuart Quarrie, Gerald Rogivue, Peter Tans, Arend van Bergeijk, Arjen van Gent, Marc van Hulssen, Peter van Niekerk, Piet van Nieuwenhuyzen

EF Education

Isabelle Autissier, Lynnath Beckley, Christine Briand, Marleen Cleyndert, Anna Drougge, Christine Guillou, Marie-Claude Kieffer, Lisa Charles, Keryn McMaster, Leah Newbold, Kiny Parade, Katherine Pettibone, Melissa Purdy, Bridget Suckling, Rick Tomlinson, Joan Lee-Touchette, Emma Westmacott

America’s Challenge

Stuart Bethany, Richard Bouzaid, Tom Faire, Campbell Field, Ross Field, Greg Flynn, Daniel Fong, Jared Henderson, Matt Humphries, Halvard Mabire, Jeffrey Scott