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Switzerland has a new high seas hero

Bernard Stamm has triumphed in one of the world's major sailing events (official Stamm website) Bernard Stamm n'a pas ménagé ses efforts pour gagner l'Around Alone (photo bernardstamm.com).

Landlocked Switzerland is celebrating another sailing success after Bernard Stamm navigated his way to victory in the Around Alone yachting race.

This content was published on May 1, 2003 - 15:12

Stamm crossed the finish line in Newport, on the east coast of the United States, at 1120 GMT on Thursday, after dominating the round-the-world solo challenge.

His 60-foot single-hull yacht completed the fifth and final stage of the competition ahead of a dozen other boats.

The 39-year-old Swiss had been on course for overall victory after winning the first, second and third legs.

Stamm's seven-month odyssey, which began in September last year, has included stops in South Africa, New Zealand, Brazil and England.

Yet the 28,775-mile race across the world's oceans lacks the glamour and media attention of the America's Cup, won this year by fellow Swiss Ernesto Bertarelli's Alinghi team.

Even the boat had humble origins: Stamm, a former lumberjack from canton Vaud, built it with his own hands in a hangar in a small Breton town.

Highs and lows

The race threw up many challenges for the Swiss skipper, which he had to battle alone, often in heavy seas.

One of his biggest trials saw him conducting emergency repairs near Cape Horn.

"The sea was very rough and I broke part of the keel," Stamm told swissinfo. "It was very difficult to bring the ship back somewhere safe to repair her and continue the race."

He says he remained motivated thanks to numerous high points, and the prospect of seeing his family and friends at the end of each leg.

"The best time was arriving and seeing people again and stepping onto land," he said. "There are other moments on the sea, for example, seeing a nice sunset, which gave me nice memories."

Stamm's victory was a relatively comfortable one. He kept ahead of his adversaries throughout, finishing each leg of the race in the lead. The fourth leg was handed to a rival due to a technicality.

Swiss prestige

Stamm's success adds further prestige to Switzerland's rising profile as a serious contender in international sailing.

Earlier this year, the Swiss team Alinghi clocked up a surprise win in the America's Cup, becoming the first European team to win the cup in 153 years.

But Stamm says Switzerland's landlocked status has been overplayed, adding that the country's lakes provide more than adequate training for sea races.

"Its complicated to sail on a lake, as there are different winds and weathers," he said. "There is not a lot of opportunity for cruising, but the sailors on the lakes know how to race."

swissinfo, Mathias Froidevaux (translation: Joanne Shields)

Key facts

The Around Alone race takes seven months and began in September last year.
It is 28,775 miles long.
The race included stops in South Africa, New Zealand, Brazil and England.
Bernard Stamm was born in 1963 in canton Vaud. He is married with two children.

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