Yacht Races Around the World

Your Complete Guide to Global Yacht Races

Yacht races pit sailing yachts against each other or the clock to race through a course marked out by buoys or over long distances from one location to another. 

Many sailing enthusiasts take up racing not only out of a desire to win but because they enjoy the mental and physical challenge of the sport. 

Yacht races take place all over the world, from hyper-local races organized by yachting clubs to global-scale events watched around the world.

In this article, we’ll discuss the types of yachts used in racing, as well as highlight some of the most famous yacht races around the world.

The History of Yacht Racing

The word “yacht” comes from the Norwegian word “Jagt”, which means “a swift, light vessel of war, commerce or pleasure.”

Formalized boat racing began in Norway in the 17th century, but boats specifically made for racing first emerged in England around 1815, when the Royal Yacht Squadron was established. In 1875, the Yacht Racing Association was formed—this association is credited with writing the standardized yacht racing rules, some of which are still in use today.

These days, World Sailing governs boat racing of all kinds and every four years, they publish a revised edition of The Racing Rules of Sailing.

3 Types of Sailing Yachts

When it comes to yacht racing, there are 3 types of boats that are usually seen: monohulls, catamarans and trimarans.

Monohulls have a traditional hull type – being single-hulled with one or more masts. This type of yacht is stable and able to travel long distances at speed. That said, they can be tricky to handle in tight spaces and may not be able to withstand rough seas as well as other types of yachts.

Catamarans are a newer type of yacht, having first appeared in the late 19th century. They feature two parallel hulls that are connected by a platform or a frame. Catamarans are wider than single-hulled yachts, so they offer better stability in rough waters and are easier to manoeuvre. They also have great cargo and passenger capacity. The downside of a catamaran is that they are slower and less fuel efficient.

Trimarans are a variation on the catamaran, having three hulls instead of two. The outside hulls are smaller than the main hull in the centre, which offers greater stability than the other two yacht types. They’re known to be the fastest of the three yachts, making them a popular choice for racing. That said, they can be hard to handle without the right crew, and they are not as suited to long-distance travel as the other two types

The Top Global Yacht Races

In yacht racing, there are four different categories of competition: 

  • Inshore
  • Offshore
  • Ocean Racing
  • Around the World

Below, you’ll find a quick summary of what these categories mean as well as examples of some of the most popular races in each category.

Inshore Yacht Races

Inshore races are short yacht races that occur on open water that is typically only a few kilometres away from shore. These races can take place on a large lake or the ocean, using buoys or other markers to outline the course.

The 3 most popular inshore races include:

  • Cowes Week – featuring 40 daily races with up to 1,000 boats. This race takes place every year in August on the Solent Channel, between the Isle of Wight and mainland England.
  • The Americas Cup – known informally as the Auld Mug, it’s arguably the most exclusive yacht racing event in the world. Racing yachts must conform to specific requirements and only two yachts participate, the challenger and the defender. The race is held every three to four years and in a different location each time.
  • Les Voiles de Saint Tropez – this competition, located in the south of France, unfolds over a week and features over 300 yachts with over 3,500 crew members taking part.

Offshore Yacht Races

Offshore racing is typically of the point-to-point variety, meaning that the racers start at one location and race to another. 

Three of the most popular offshore races include:

  • The Sydney-Hobart Race – is an annual race that runs from Sydney, Australia, to Hobart, Tasmania.
  • The Tour de France a la Voile – runs parallel to the cycling competition of the same name, covering 1000 miles of the French coast along the English Channel, the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean.
  • The Fastnet YachtRace – covers 600 miles from the Isle of Wight, rounding the southern tip of Ireland and ending up at Plymouth, England.

Ocean Yacht Racing

Yacht races in this category are also of the point-to-point type, except that they often—though not always—cover longer distances than the offshore type of race.

  • The South Atlantic Race hosts over 50 participant yachts and covers over 3600 miles from Cape Town, South Africa to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
  • The Route du Rhum is a primarily single-handed yacht race that happens every 4 years, covering approximately 3700 miles from the northern tip of France to the French Caribbean Island of Guadeloupe.
  • The Ostar was first held in 1960. It runs from Plymouth, England to Newport, Wales, and covers approximately 3000 miles.

Around the World Yacht Races

As the category name implies, Around the World races cover long distances and are usually completed in segments or legs.

  • The Ocean Race began in 1973 and is one of the toughest yacht races. It consists of nine legs and covers over 27,930 miles.
  • The Clipper Round the World Yacht Race, though no longer running, was still notable. The race was established by the first man to complete a continuous, single-handed circumnavigation: Sir Robin Knox-Johnston. Participating boats were designed specifically for the race and crewed by a professional skipper and paying novice sailors. 
  • The Global Solo Challenge pits participants in a circumnavigation race against the wind and the current. Yachts are specifically designed for the race and are manned by a professional skipper and a crew of novice sailors.

The 4 Main Rules of Yacht Racing

There are many different rules governing the sport of yacht racing, according to The Racing Rules of Sailing, but the four most important are as follows:

  • Rule 10: “Boats on a port tack shall keep clear of boats on a starboard tack.”
  • Rule 11: “When boats are on the same tack and overlapped, the boat to windward shall keep clear of a leeward boat.”
  • Rule 12: “When boats are on the same tack and not overlapped, the boat that is astern shall keep clear of the boat ahead.”
  • Rule 13: “When a boat is tacking, it shall keep clear of boats that are not tacking.”

Get Started Locally with Van Isle Marina

Interested in purchasing a vessel? Speak to one of our knowledgeable marina yacht brokers, they’re always happy to help and answer any questions you may have.

If you participate in a local yacht race, why not extend your trip to visit Van Isle Marina? We offer nightly moorage and usage of all our state-of-the-art facilities including showers, laundry, dog wash, fire pit and more! Contact us today for more information.