Twenty-eight identical Figaro Bénéteau monohulls set sail from the French port of Concarneau on Sunday, April 9, 2006. Destination: Port of Gustavia, Saint Barthélemy. Under the direction Pen Duick, a transatlantic race organizer that took over the event as of this year, the 8 th edition of the two-handed, bi-annual transatlantic race, the Transat ag2r, had a new itinerary in 2006— direct to Saint Barth, skipping the stopover in Madeira that had been part of each prior edition of the race.
Within the first few days of the event, three of the boats sustained major breakage and returned to port. The remaining 25 entries took a variety of routes across the Atlantic, with some heading north, others to the south, trying to take best advantage of the winds. But it was clear from the beginning that the leading group of boats, whatever their position, were within a few miles of each other, and many armchair race experts hoped that perhaps two or three of the racing teams would arrive in the Port of Gustavia at exactly the same time, with a mad sprint for the finish.
The first boats actually appeared on the horizon in the wee hours of the morning on Saturday, April 29, just at dawn, as the sun started peeking through clouds along the horizon. The winners, Kito de Pavant and Pietro D’Ali of Groupe Bel crossed the finish line at 5:57am, after 19 days, 22 hours, 24 minutes, and 30 seconds of racing, covering 3,710 miles at an average speed of 7.76 knots. In spite of the early morning hour, a large crowd had gathered on the docks to cheer for the winners, with Dominic Vittet and Lionel Lemonchois (ATAO Audio System) coming in just 18 minutes later to take second place, and Gérald Gregoire and Jeanne Veniard (Banque Populaire) arriving third in the 8 th edition of this bi-annual race from France to Saint Barth.
In spite of the early morning arrival time, word had gotten out and there was a large crowd lining the docks to cheer for the arrivals. The crowd remained faithful throughout the day, as there was almost a non-stop parade of arrivals: in fact, for the first time in the history of the event, 23 of the boats arrived within a 24-hour period.