Published: Thursday, 26 May 2016

Hiroshi Kitada aboard Kiho crossed the line off Sandy Hook after 22 days, 18 hours and three minutes at sea, becoming the first Japanese sailor to finish the Class40 race in The Transat bakerly, a single-handed ocean regatta from Plymouth, southwest England to New York. 

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(Photos: The Transat bakerly - Kiho)

“I am very happy, I can’t find the words to express how I truly feel,” says Kitada as he stepped ashore in Manhatten. “I did not understand why everyone was asking me why I chose to take part in this race to begin with, but I realised how difficult it was after I started. 

“I am very proud of what I have been through. It was very hard, but I am glad that I did it. If I had to summarise the last three weeks of racing, then the practice of martial arts comes to mind. It takes stamina and you have to learn to fight everything you come up against.

“I want to thank everyone, be it the organisation, the team or my competitors - they allowed me to be part of this race’s family. I still need time to realise what I have done, I’m not even aware of it yet. The day is beautiful, there is sun, skyscrapers and I’m in New York,” Kitada adds. 

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(Hiroshi Kitada)

The Japanese sailor reached New York 14 days behind Francois Gabart on Macif in Class40, who took line honours after a downwind sleigh ride across the Atlantic in just eight days, eight hours and 54 minutes. Gabart’s average speed of 23.11 knots was more than three times that of Kitada. 

As The Transat bakerly 2016 came to the end with the last finisher Kitada crossing the line off New York, Race Owner and Organiser, OC Sport Pen Duick confirms that it will be on the calendar in 2020 following the Route du Rhum – Destination Guadeloupe in 2018.

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The Transat bakerly Event Director Hervé Favre says the two races are now offered as an alternating and complementary pair of classics for professional solo single-handers. Both races will continue to feature the same classes as in The Transat bakerly - namely Ultimes, IMOCA 60s, Multi50s and Class40s.

“The idea to re-launch The Transat bakerly this year was for us to have a classic solo race on offer every two years and we hope that this race will attract as many entries as the Route du Rhum in the future,” says Favre. “We hope that having the two races now firmly established on the racing calendar will help sailors and their sponsors to plan their campaigns around them.” 

Reflecting on The Transat bakerly 2016, Favre says the first staging of the event in eight years had been a big success with 25 yachts on the startline and the Ultime class – led by Francois Gabart on Macif - making its debut in the race in spectacular fashion.

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(Francois Gabart on Macif)

“I think it is fair to say that The Transat bakerly returned in style,” says Favre. “We saw some incredible mileages by the biggest boats in the fleet but behind them the race was as tough as ever and every Skipper who attempted what remains one of the great challenges in solo sailing deserves huge credit.”  

The Ultimes apart, the other big innovation – the addition of a non-timed, pre-start stage or Warm-Up from St Malo to Plymouth – had been a success with sailors, sponsors and the French public and Favre confirms it will be part of the next race in 2020.

“The warm-up from St Malo gave the French public a wonderful opportunity to get involved in the race and enjoy the race village atmosphere,” says Favre. “It proved a big hit with the sailors and their sponsors, many of whom were unable to make it to Plymouth.”

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(Macif and Banque Populaire

In between those two boats, the drama of one of the great transatlantic races was played out. The majority of Skippers were French but there were five from other nations, including two Germans and two Britons. Six Skippers – or one quarter of the fleet – failed to finish, including the Briton Richard Tolkien who transferred from his damaged yacht to a cargo ship in the mid-Atlantic. For almost all the Skippers, apart from those of the Ultimes, there was one big storm in the north Atlantic to survive and then a series of less powerful depressions to negotiate.

The Transat bakerly showcased some fascinating match-races between some of the best sailors in the world including Gabart against Thomas Coville in the Ultimes, Armel Le Cleac’h against Vincent Riou at the head of the IMOCA 60 fleet and a three-way battle at the front of the Class40 fleet between eventual winner Thibaut Vauchel-Camus and Isabelle Joschke and Phil Sharp. 

Among the most closely-watched rivalries was that between IMOCA 60 class winner Le Cleac’h on the foiling Banque Populaire and runner-up Riou on the more conventionally-configured PRB. Le Cleach’s winning margin was not huge but he controlled Riou for much of the race, showing that even in a mostly upwind race, the foilers have the advantage.

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Favre believes this contest has demonstrated that foiling is now indisputably the way to go, as the class prepares for the Vendée Globe solo round-the-world race this autumn. “The fact that a foiler won the IMOCA 60 class is significant – it is the way of the future – there is no turning back from foils now,” says Favre.

Although the racing fleet is now safely docked in New York, there remains one sailor still at sea. Loïck Peyron set out from Plymouth sailing alongside The Transat bakerly fleet on board Eric Tabarly’s old ketch Pen Duick II. His aim was to pay tribute to Tabarly, and other great sailors who took on this race in the past, by completing the course in the boat Tabarly used to win the race in 1964 and in the same trim as it was then.

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(Loïck Peyron on Pen Duick II)

However, the tough upwind conditions in the north Atlantic in the early summer of 2016 took their toll on Pen Duick II which sustained damage to her headstays, forcing Peyron to turn round on his 13th day at sea when halfway to America. The modern legend of French sailing is just 150 miles from the French coast as he brings his “old girl” back home to lick her wounds.

The Transat bakerly 2016 results:


1. François Gabart/Macif - 8 days, 8 hours, 54 minutes and 39 seconds at sea

2. Thomas Coville/Sodebo - 8 days, 18 hours, 32 minutes and 2 seconds at sea

3. Yves Le Blevec/Actual - 10 days, 12 hours, 15 minutes and 59 seconds at sea



1. Armel Le Cléac’h/Banque Populaire - 12 days, 2 hours and 28 minutes and 39 seconds at sea

2. Vincent Riou/PRB - 12 days, 4 hours, 50 minutes and 11 seconds at sea

3. Jean-Pierre Dick/St Michel Virbac - 12 days, 17 hours, 28 minutes and 7 seconds at sea

4. Paul Meilhat (SMA) - 14 days, 5 hours, 5 minutes and 14 seconds at sea

Abandon - Sébastien Josse (Edmond de Rothschild)

Abandon - Richard Tolkien (44)

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1. Gilles Lamiré/French Tech Rennes St Malo - 12 days, 7 hours, 51 minutes and 17 seconds at sea

2. Lalou Roucayrol/Arkema - 14 days, 7 hours, 13 minutes, 20 seconds at sea

3. Pierre Antoine/Olmix - 16 days, 14 hours, 29 minutes, 23 seconds at sea

4. Erik Nigon (Vers un monde sans Sida) - 16 days, 18 hours, 32 minutes and 33 seconds at sea

Abandon - Erwan Le Roux (FenêtréA-Cardinal)



1. Thibaut Vauchel-Camus/Solidaires en Peloton-ARSEP - 17 days, 12 hours, 42 minutes and 56 seconds at sea

2. Louis Duc/Carac - 17 days, 23 hours, 54 minutes, 40 seconds at sea

3. Phil Sharp/Imerys - 19 days, 31 minutes, 5 seconds at sea

4. Edouard Golbery (Région Normandie) - 19 days, 18 hours, 3 minutes and 30 seconds at sea

5. Robin Marais (Esprit Scout) - 19 days, 19 hours and 33 minutes at sea

6. Anna Maria Renken (Nivea) - 21 days, 13 hours, 19 minutes and 25 seconds at sea

7. Hiroshi Kitada (Kiho) - 22 days, 18 hours, 3 minutes and 45 seconds at sea

Abandon - Maxime Sorel (VandB)

Abandon - Armel Tripon (Black Pepper)

Abandon - Isabelle Joschke (Generali-Horizon Mixité)