Kass Schmitt, the only woman entry in this edition of the OSTAR.
The 2017 edition of the four-yearly Original Single Handed Transatlantic Race (OSTAR) from Plymouth, UK to Newport, Rhode Island started in light airs on May 29. The 15 solo skippers were joined by a further seven boats sailing double handed in the TWOSTAR race that’s run alongside the main event. The 3,000-mile race has been run since its inception in 1960 by the Royal Western Yacht Club.
Despite the gentle start, the sailors were soon battling with a fierce North Atlantic storm with 60 knot winds and huge seas around a 1,000 miles east of Newfoundland. At the time of writing one boat had sank two were abandoned and several others had retired from the races
Australian Mark Hipgrave bought his Jeanneau Sun Fast 3600 in England. After the finish he intends to ship it home in preparation for the Rolex Sydney Hobart race and then the 5,000 mile Melbourne to Osaka (Japan) race.
An additional hazard for competitors this year is that warm winter temperatures in the Arctic have resulted in significant calving of icebergs that were then washed south by the ocean currents. In early May between the longitude of the Azores and the continental USA these were recorded as far south as 42 degrees north.
Competitors come from 12 countries, including the UK, France, Portugal, Poland, Italy, Bulgaria, USA and Australia. On the same weekend as this race started the Royal Western YC also organised the celebrations to mark the 50th anniversary of Sir Francis Chichester’s record breaking circumnavigation in 1967. Chichester was winner of the first OSTAR, held in 1960 as a result of a bet between a group of friends as to which of them could sail their yacht singlehanded across the Atlantic the fastest. At the time none knew that this wager would spawn the entire sport of solo oceanic yacht racing.
Action on the start line of the OSTAR single handed transatlantic race
In 1967 Chichester became the first person to sail single-handed around the globe with only one stop, opening the way for the famed Golden Globe Race in 1968/9, sponsored by the Sunday Times newspaper. Out of a field of nine competitors, Sir Robin Knox-Johnston was the only successful finisher, taking 313 days to circle the globe alone.
Next year will see a re-enactment of the Golden Globe race, with 30 skippers leaving Falmouth to race non stop around the world. Competitors will sail south down the Atlantic, before effectively sailing around Antarctica and then returning to the UK via Cape Horn. Race rules limit them to traditional heavy long keel yachts of a modest size and only the equipment that was available in the late 1960s. Amazingly 30 entries have signed up and it promises to be fascinating to observe. One of those, Frenchman Lionel Regnier, is racing in the OSTAR with the aim of building miles and experience in his Rustler 36 One and All. Unlike most racers, who take every opportunity to minimise weight, he is carrying the same weight of stores that he will take for his circumnavigation next year.
Follow competitors via the race tracker here