The 1997-98 Whitbread Round the World Race was won by Paul Cayard and his EF Language team who won three of the first five legs, en route to a convincing victory. His team was composed of many sailors from his 1999-2000 America’s Cup campaign, and they brought an as yet unseen intensity to their approach on the water.
They were pushed hard on the water by Grant Dalton’s Merit Cup, also composed of a who’s who of professional sailors who would go on to have long and distinguished careers in the sport. For the first time all boats were built to the Whitbread 60 rule. Another innovation was in the scoring, which switched for the first time to a points based system, as opposed to total elapsed time, or handicap. 10 boats competed in the course, which featured nine legs, the most to date.