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Marine Resources 2022 - LEADERBOARD

Global Solo Challenge: Where does solo offshore racing come from?

by Global Solo Challenge 21 Jun 20:36 BST
Jester – Blondie Hasler – OSTAR 1960 © Roger Lean-Vercoe / PPL

When sailing single-handed for extended periods, the greatest problem was, in the past, who was going to helm and keep watch when the skipper had to sleep?

This was an intractable and potentially dangerous situation. So it is no wonder that long-distance solo sailing events are a relative newcomer to the Ocean Racing diary.

The first solo race across an ocean was held as late as 1960, The Single Handed Trans-Atlantic Race.

The concept of the race was developed by a decorated British war hero, Lieutenant-Colonel Herbert George "Blondie" Hasler DSO, OBE, and the idea for the race arose after he had invented the first wind vane auto-steering system, enabling yachts to maintain their course without the skipper having to be hands-on for 24 hours per day.

Sponsored by the Observer newspaper, the race became known as the OSTAR.

Although there have been changes in the race's sponsorship and name, the OSTAR continues to be raced every four years. Nowadays, it is officially known as the Original Trans-Atlantic race and is only for amateur sailors.

Professional were meant to start competing in the newly created the TRANSAT race which has been held since 2004. Held initially over a very similar route (to Boston rather than Rhode Island) meant the OSTAR slipped forward by a year to 2005 for the first time since 1960. OC Sports bought the rights to use the history for the OSTAR in promoting The TRANSAT, a race that never really took off.

After 2008 edition (to Boston) the 2012 edition wasn't held. In 2016, only 25 boats took the start to a course to New York and the 2020 edition, meant to go to Charleston, was cancelled. Now officially called The TRANSAT CIC after its main sponsor is due to be held in 2026 next, but little seems to tie this new event to the history of the OSTAR.

Meanwhile the Royal Western Yacht Club have introduced the 'TWO STAR' for double-handed teams.

In the original event, there was a great number of people who expressed an interest in entering the race, but in the end, only five yachts set off from Plymouth, England to Newport, Rhode Island, USA, with one of these yachts skippered by Halser, himself.

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