05 May 2024

The Royal Western Yacht Club of England hosts the major transatlantic races; the Original Single-handed Transatlantic Race (OSTAR) and the Two-handed Transatlantic Race (TWOSTAR)

Are you up to the challenge of racing, single-headed or double-handed, 3000miles across the North Atlantic?

The first trans-Atlantic race, conceived in 1960 by ‘cockleshell hero’ Blondie Hasler and organised by the RWYC, sailed from Plymouth to New York and was won by the intrepid yachtsman Sir Francis Chichester. It was an instant success and despite strong opposition from the sailing establishment saw the birth of singlehanded racing throughout the world. Since then the RWYC has run the OSTAR (the Original Singlehanded TransAtlantic Race) every four years from Plymouth to Newport. It was later joined by a sister event, the Twohanded TransAtlantic Race (which quickly became known as the TWOSTAR), when the demand grew for a twohanded race.

The Creation of the OSTAR

In 1956 Blondie Hasler became interested in the challenges of offshore singlehanded sailing – “one man, one boat, the ocean…”. Over the next few years he conceived of a transatlantic race against the prevailing winds and currents whose purpose was to develop the necessary seamanship, equipment and techniques.

He had interested several competitors, but was unable to find an organiser or sponsor willing to move from the familiar full-crewed or ‘cruise in company’ racing to such a dangerous sounding innovation. His press release of November 1959 proclaimed “Described by one experienced yachtsman as ‘the most sporting event of the century’ a transatlantic race for single-handed sailing boats will start from the south coast of England on Saturday 11 June 1960 and will finish off Sheepshead Bay, in the approaches to New York, at least a month later”.

Blondie and Francis Chichester agreed that should no sponsor be found they would go ahead with the race anyway and each competitor would wager half-a-crown; winner take all. But Blondie persevered and, with Francis, approached the RWYC and got a positive response from the Rear Commodore Jack Odling-Smee.

With a yacht club of repute to take on the organisation of the race, Blondie obtained the sponsorship of The Observer newspaper and so the RWYC Singlehanded Trans-Atlantic Race for the Observer Trophy, or OSTAR, came about.

With sponsor and organiser in place, the half crown wager was no longer required but its proposal was recognised later when the Half Crown Club was created to honour the intrepid sailors who have competed in an OSTAR.

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