I did the 2013 OSTAR from Pymouth to Newport. The start was on May 27. The conditions were pretty rough and after two days I had to turn around because Ntombifuti was making too much water, the bilge pumps did not work properly, the autopilot worked very unreliably, and the sweet water pump of the engine was about to die. I put into Brest.
8 days after the start I took up the race again, when the fleet was already half way through the Atlantic. I managed to overtake Geoff Alcorn on Wind of Lorne, but the others were out of reach. It took me 27 days and 11 hours from Brest. I had 3 gales quite a few calms, and 80% headwinds. The weather was what the OSTAR promised: Against the wind, against the current.
The OSTAR is the mother of all single-handed offshore races, in
particular the Route du Rhum and the Vendée Globe. Nowadays
the French races are much better known, but it was really with the
OSTAR that all began. The OSTAR made the French. Eric Tabarly's
victory in 1964 sparked the clear dominance of French sailors in all
single-handed offshore races. It was also the OSTAR that gave
rise to the multihulls. Meanwhile the professional sailors focus on
the French races and the OSTAR has become a corinthian race.
But it is still the race, against prevailing wind and current, cold,
foggy, possibly through icebergs, with a lot of hardship.
At the time of the first OSTAR in 1960 the commodore of the Royal
Western Yacht Club was Sir Winston Churchill.
In 1964 Eric Tabarly won the OSTAR and laid the grounds for the enthousiasm and the dominance of the French in off-shore sailing. Charles de Gaulle made him a member of the Légion d'Honneur because of his OSTAR victory.
I have found a rather odd reason for abandonment for the French Commandant B. Waquet: Air France helped him to navigate in the 1968 OSTAR. He retired once Air France went into strike.
In 1972 Bob Miller's yacht Mersea Pearl was dismasted 500nm southeast of New Foundland. She was taken in tow by a Norwegian ship. But since they were not prepared to slow down the yacht was left adrift. Later she was recovered by the US Navy.
The American Philip Weld (the winner of the 1980 edition) wanted to take part in the 1976 OSTAR. But on the delivery voyage to Plymouth his modern and fast trimaran Gulf Streamer got capsized by a rogue wave. He and his crew got rescued after 5 days but had to abandon the boat. Gulf Streamer was picked up by the Soviet freighter Nikolai Ananiev on her way to Lisbon. There she got transfered to another Soviet ship bound for Odessa where she got sailed by a member of the Odessa Yacht Club.
1976 was the most gigantic OSTAR. Alain Colas entered the OSTAR with a 236' (72m) long four masterClub Méditeranée. From then onwards the race committee put an upper limit on boat length. In total 125 boats crossed the start line.
In 1976, Mike McMullen's wife Lizzie tragically electrocuted herself as she helped prepare the boat just days before the start. Mike McCullen and his boat Three Cheers were then lost at sea in the race. The American Mike Flanagan is also believed to have fallen overboard and has never been found.
The Argos beacons to track the boat via satellite have first been tested in the 1980 OSTAR. Nowadays they are standard on great off-shore races like the Vendée Globe or the Route du Rhum.
In 1984 Philippe Poupon crossed the finish line first and went to bed believing he has won the race. But Yvon Fauconnier, who arrived 10 hours later, was awarded a 16 hours time allowance for assisting capsized Philippe Jeantot and therefore won the race.
In 1988 David Sellings had to abandon his yacht Hyccup into his life raft as whales started attacking her. The whales sunk the yacht, Sellings got rescued by a ship in position 49°N 029°W.
Even though I am the first Swiss-German amateur entry on a monohull, some Swiss, mainly professionals, have already participated in the OSTAR:
1968: Guy Piazzini on Guintar III, a 41' monohull. Abandoned because of broken mast step fitting.
1984: Philippe Fournier on Gespac, a 40' trimaran. Came in 2nd in his class in 19d 07h 50m.
1992: Laurent Bourgnon on Primagaz, a 60' trimaran. Came in 5th of his class in 13d 07h 40m.
2000: Yvan Bourgnon (brother of Laurent) on Bayer en France, an ORMA 60. Came in 6th of his class in 16d 06h 21m.
2000: Dominique Wavre on Union Bancaire Privée, an Open 60. Came in 9th in his class in 17d 17h 02m.
Dominique Wavre (Open 60, 2nd in 12d 18h 22m), Bernard Stamm (Open 60, capsized), and Steve Ravussin (ORMA 60, 10th in 12d 04h 27m) also competed in the 2004 Transat. As in 2000 that race has mainly become the qualifying leg for the Vendée Globe for professionals. The "amateur OSTAR" was held in 2005.