A quiet Frenchman, one of whose previous trips through the Western Approaches to Britain was filled with tragedy, and a compatriot known as Jeff, had the biggest smiles in Plymouth today at the end of the Rolex Fastnet Race.
Seb Josse was skipper of ABN Amro 2 in the 2005-06 Volvo round the world race when watch leader Hans Horrovoets was lost overboard on the transatlantic run from Annapolis. The crew recovered his body and transferred it to a Dutch navy ship in the Channel on the way to Portsmouth.
He has said he hopes to do that race again, perhaps wearing French colours, but now he flies the flag of BT in an Open 60 bearing that name and, with co-skipper Jean-Francois Cuzon, the J-F in Jeff, won the hotly contested, 11-boat Open 60 division.
They were sailing doublehanded, using the Rolex Fastnet as a qualifier for this November's Transat Jacques Vabre from Le Havre to Costa Rica and they managed to overhaul their closest rivals on Artemis by 75 minutes on the run from the rock.
Artemis was co-skippered by Sam Davies a heroine of the vendee Globe, and Sidney Gavignet, and they, too, had planned to sail doublehanded until Gavignet suffered severe bruising to his right leg in a confrontation he lost with a spinning winch handle.
"We need to try and improve the performance," said Davies. "It's encouraging, though, because we know where we need to work and we've learned a lot in the last two and a half days," They now also mive into TJV preparation. Five of the first eight boats to finish were Open 60s, including Mike Sanderson in Pindar and Dee Caffari in Aviva.
While the first handful of crews was enjoying breakfast at the end of the Rolex Fastnet Race today, the vast majority of the 300 which left Cowes on Sunday was still beating its way upwind to the lighthouse and rock on the south-west tip of Ireland which gives the race its name.
First across the finish was Mike Slade's 100-foot Leopard but 15 hours outside the 44-hour record time it set in 2007 and chased all the way home by Karl Kwok's Hong King-based new 80-foot Beau Geste, with skipper Gavin Brady and tactician Francesco de Angelis in charge.
The overall winner of the Fastnet Trophy, which is on handicap, may not be known until Friday, but the boat to beat was Niklas Zennstrom's new, and very powerful, 72-foot Ran. The rock star cast included Tim Powell, Steve Hayles, Mo Gray, Jon Taylor, James Stagg, Richard Bouzaid, Andy Hemmings Lou Varney, Ado Stead, and Jeremy Robinson. That's firepower.