Benoit Lesaffre’s 50ft catamaran has broken - just - the ten-year-old race record set by Lawrie Smith and the crew of Rothmans

The 1991 San Fernando Race was part of Lawrie Smith’s rampage around the world onboard the sleek 80ft Humphries’ design maxi Rothmans in the build-up to the 1993-94 Whitbread Race. Many ambitious skippers have set out with a view to bettering Smith’s time of two days, two hours and two minutes over the 400-mile track but this year, the record finally fell to Benoit Lesaffre’s 50ft catamaran Atmosphere in a new benchmark of two days, one hour and 52 minutes.

As Lesaffre approached the Philippines, he knew it would be tight and was mindful of the relentless approach of Sam Chan’s 70ft ULDB sled Ffree Fire: “We sat out there all bloody night going nowhere. Seeing Sam Chan closing on us was very reminiscent of last year’s China Sea Race.” This time however, there was just enough breeze for the cat to purr its way over the line before Ffree Fire crossed two-and-a-half minutes later, so becoming the first monohull to break Smith’s record.

Forecasts before Thursday’s start suggested this could well be a record-breaking year and as Saturday dawned, Atmosphere shimmered on the horizon in a delicate breeze. It took Lesaffre and his three crew fully five hours to close on land, and with Chan’s army of 18 marching ever closer, it was a very tense, light air finish that saw Lesaffre leaping from the helm as the gun fired.

More later on the Clipper fleet and how they have faired in these light airs.

Click here for the event website.