With perfect weather conditions the prestigious MailASail Azores and Back Race (AZAB) hosted and organised by the Royal Cornwall Yacht Club went off to a cracking start under the watchful eye of RCYC Commodore Sarah Hancock and her fellow officers.

The yachts are racing to Ponta Delgada on the island of Sao Miquel, one of the nine islands in the Azores archipelago. Ponta Delgada is a favourite port call for tallships and yachts making transatlantic passages, a port where vessels replenish stores and allow crew to rest.

Following a short stay the AZAB yachts will race back to Falmouth.

The total distance to be covered by the yachts on the two legs is 2,400 miles. On Tuesday morning a majority of the yachts were in 12 knots of east north easterly winds with stronger winds forecast further south off the Azores.

The 60ft long Superbigou, an IMOCA 60 , skippered by Cornish man Will Claxton from Padstow, was way out in front of the main group of yachts with only 474 miles to go to the finishing line off Ponta Delgada. Whilst the smaller yachts were grouped together doing 7.5 knots average, Will was sailing at 12.5 knots having covered 232 miles in the previous 24 hours.

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Falmouth has long been a venue for international and national championship events and hosting them has been an important part of the Royal Cornwall Yacht Club activities since the 1950s. The AZAB has been organised by RCYC every fourth year since the first race in 1975.

Competitors this year are from UK, France, Netherlands, Norway Germany and the Isle of Man.

The organisers received 120 expressions of interest in the race leading to approximately 50 provisional entries, 45 firm entries whittled down for a variety of reasons to 39 expected on the start line.

Most yachts participating in the race take between seven and ten days to reach the Azores, allowing a week or so to relax and prepare for the return passage.”

This race is a World Sailing Category 1 race. Boats must be completely self-sufficient for extended periods of time, capable of withstanding heavy storms and prepared to meet serious emergencies without the expectation of outside assistance. At one point the boats will be over 500 miles from nearest land.

In 1975 life-rafts were optional! In 2023 boats are required to carry a satphone, an emergency beacon that can alert international maritime rescue services and home them to the boat, and each member of the crew will wear a personal AIS device to broadcast their position to vessels in the vicinity

For those wishing to follow the competitors each boat will carry a GPS tracker and can be followed on the event website www.azab.co.uk

* My thanks to Neil Andrew for briefing me on various matters.