Armour piercing Swiss

James Boyd caught up with Around Alone leg one winner Bernard Stamm
One of the last times I met Bernard Stamm was in Les Sables d’Olonne just before the start of the 2000/1 Vendee Globe. His Open 60, a design by Pierre Rolland who had previous created his Mini, was in chaos. It had been launched late, qualified late and Stamm was crawling around the rabbit warren-like accommodation (his boat seems to have more bulkheads in it than an aircraft carrier) making last minute alterations, some minor, some far from minor. Seeing the same boat again in Newport, Rhode Island before the start of Around Alone, almost two years on, the contrast could not have been more different. His boat, now known as Armor Lux-Bobst Group after his sponsors (the former is a clothing manufacturer, the latter make packaging) seemed to be thoroughly sorted and this combined with Stamm’s past form prompted us to put the amiable Swiss skipper down as line honours favourite in this race. Stamm was certainly favourite for this first leg eastbound across the North Atlantic. After he was forced to pull out of the Vendee Globe with irreconcilable autopilot problems he had headed for the States. From here in February last year he set off on an attempt to break the west to east transatlantic monohull record, held by the somewhat larger Mari Cha III. He succeeded in beating the 147ft ketch’s record, setting a new time for the 2,925 mile course of 8 days 20 hours 55 minutes and 35 seconds. Leaving New York on the 15 September this time, Stamm says his tactics were to hit the race course at speed. “In the Atlantic crossing from west to east you go with the system, and if you are the first to catch the wind, you keep the wind for longer and it is stronger. So for me