OSTAR

The RWYC Transatlantic Event 2017

In 2017 the Royal Western Yacht Club of England will run both its major transatlantic races, the Original Singlehanded Trans-Atlantic Race (OSTAR) and the Twohanded Trans-Atlantic Race (TWOSTAR), at the same time.

OSTAR 2013 photoFor more information and to follow the races click on 2017 Transatlantic Event

Traditionally these races are run every four years, one year apart. Now improved facilities at the finish – Newport, Rhode Island – enable a much larger fleet to be accommodated and so the decision was made to run the races concurrently. The twohanded crews will now be able to compare their performance directly against the singlehanders. Thus will set an interesting dilemma for those seeking to emulate Italian Andrea Mura who won both the last TWOSTAR in 2012 and the last OSTAR in 2013!

The races remain as popular as ever despite the many copies that have come and gone over the years.

 

OSTAR – The Original Singlehanded Transatlantic Race

The Single-Handed Trans-Atlantic Race was devised by ‘Blondie’ Hasler in 1957 as a sporting event to encourage the development of equipment and techniques for shorthanded oceanic sailing that would benefit the wider sailing community.  The course, across the North Atlantic against the prevailing winds and currents, sets a significant test of seamanship.

The first race was run in 1960 after Hasler had finally obtained sponsorship from the Observer Newspaper and interested the Royal Western Yacht Club in organising the event which became known as the OSTAR.  Five competitors started and remarkably five finished!  The race was won by Francis Chichester in Gipsy Moth III, the largest boat in the fleet at 40 feet.

The second race in 1964 attracted 15 starters and was won by Eric Tabarly in the 44ft Pen Duick II. For his achievement he was awarded the Légion d’Honneur by President de Gaulle. France’s love affair with short-handed oceanic racing and the OSTAR (or Transat Anglaise) was established.

By 1976 the number of competitors had grown to 125 and the largest boat was Alain Colas’ 236ft Club Mediterranée. The growth of the race attracted the disapproval of the “establishment” and the RWYC came under pressure to restrict both boat size and the number of boats in the fleet.

But with the popularity of the race ever growing, the 1980 race had over twice as many applicants as could be accepted.  The decision was made in 1978 to run a second race to accommodate the overflow.  However, as a further gesture to the critics (as well as satisfying a demand from further competitors), this race would be for boats sailed by a crew of two – the Twohanded Transatlantic Race or TWOSTAR – raced in 1981.

The OSTAR continued to grow in popularity particularly with the ‘professional’ 50 and 60 ft boat skippers for whom the OSTAR was a points-scoring event on their racing calendar and a qualifier for the round-the-world events. While winning was essential for the heavily sponsored skippers, the less ‘professional’ participants entered for the challenge of crossing the North Atlantic often competing in small family cruisers.

By 2000 the ‘Grand Prix’ boats made up half the fleet and their accompanying media circus dominated the race, little attention was paid to the smaller less- (or un-) sponsored boats. The Club took the decision to split the race and have a commercially-run ‘Grand Prix’ event for the large classes in 2004 and continue the classic or ‘Corinthian’ OSTAR in 2005.

The return of the OSTAR (the O now standing for Original) to the Corinthian ideals of Blondie Hasler was welcome and many experienced OSTAR skippers entered the 2005 edition. The race continued successfully in 2009 and 2013.

The fifteenth OSTAR will now be sailed in conjunction with the sixth TWOSTAR in the  2017 Transatlantic Event

For the history of the race go to OSTAR History