Sailing (aka yachting) has got to be one of summer’s most glamorous sports. But as you would find out at any of the world’s major sailing races, it’s not all champagne and sunbathing. In fact sailing races can be some of the world’s most grueling – and dangerous – water sports in the world. Check out some of our favorite sailing races and records, to inspire you to head out boating this summer.
Photo By: Lisa Bat
Explainer: Sailing Races
Sailing races – or yachting races – usually involves yachts sailing against other yachts on a course, marked by buoys in the water. This type of racing is called fleet racing – unlike match racing, where just two boats compete against each other. Some races like the Jules Verne Trophy are about racing the clock – not other boats. Most races, however, involve a fairly complex set of rules, for example, larger yachts are often handicapped in comparison to shorter yachts, to create fairness in terms of time. An alternative to handicap races, is to have classes where only certain, similar kinds of boats are allowed to compete in the one race. You can read a detailed list of sailing race rules here. Sailing races can either be done in a team or solo. Non-professional races are called regattas, and usually involve amateurs. Many cities and towns near water – especially seas or big lakes – have a yachting club, which organizes regatta races where you can even get involved!
World’s Most Impressive Sailing Races
Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race, Australia: Australia’s most famous on water race starts in Sydney on Boxing Day and ends in Tasmania within a few days. In 2012, the boat Wild Oats XI set a record by finishing in 1 day, 18 hours, 23 minutes and 12 seconds. It’s considered one of the most challenging sailing races in the world.
Antigua Sailing Week: This is the Caribbean’s largest sailing event, and the regatta is huge with up to about 200 yachts taking part. Several races are held in the week and 2017 will mark the 50th anniversary of the event.
Cowes Week: Taking place in the waters of Solent, which is between southern England and the Isle of Wight, Cowes Week is one of the world’s largest regattas. There are dozens of races and hundreds of boats and a whole range of people taking part, from the world’s best to weekend hobby sailors. The famous Fastnet Race starts the regatta.
Vendée Globe: This is a so-called “single-handed” yacht race, which means that it is a solo yacht race with no crew and no assistance, takes the most ambitious sailor right around the world. It’s considered one of the top sailing races because of the challenge faced by the solo sailor who must go round-the-world without stopping. The Vendée Globe occurs every four years (the next is 6 November 2016) only experienced people can join this race. The record holder is François Gabart, who completed the race in 78 days 2 hours 16 minutes and 40 seconds in the 2012-13 edition.
Kékszalag Round the Lake Balaton Race, Hungary: This is the oldest round the lake sailing competition in Europe taking place in Hungary’s Lake Balaton. It is also one of the longest lake sailing races at 155 kilometers (84 nautical miles). This race is not nearly as prestigious or grueling as the other races on this list, however, it’s one of the races where spectators can get much closer to the action.
America’s Cup: The America’s cup is a race between two boats. One of the boats is the ‘defender’ from the yacht club that currently holds the America’s Cup, the other boat is the ‘challenger’ and represents the yacht club challenging for the trophy. The yacht club that holds the trophy gets to pick the next venue and set some of the rules – only about 20% of challenging clubs have ever one America’s Cup away from the defender. Challenging teams take place in a series of qualifying races so that it can be decided which is the one boat that gets to challenge the current America’s Cup holder. This year’s America’s Cup is coming up in June 2017 and will be held in Bermuda. The defender is Oracle Team USA.
Volvo Ocean Race: This is a round-the-world ocean yacht race, held every three years. The race typically departs Europe in October and – unlike the Vendée Globe – this sailing race has several legs and is done in a team. The 2017-18 edition will start in Spain and make stops in New Zealand, South Africa, Wales, Sweden, China, Portugal, the United States, and ending in the Netherlands.
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