And they’re off! The 2019 AZAB challenge departs Falmouth at the start of their 2400 mile race to the mid-Atlantic and back. Photo: Ed Wildgoose, HiFly Photography
Falmouth Harbour’s 2023 racing season is shaping up as the biggest, busiest and most spectacular on record – starting with the MailASail Azores and Back (AZAB) challenge which departs the Cornish port on June 3rd.
A 50-strong fleet of international racing and cruising yachts and their most skilful and plucky skippers will set sail on the 2,400 mile race to the Azores archipelago in the mid-Atlantic and back again, in the four-yearly race devised and hosted by Falmouth’s Royal Cornwall Yacht Club since 1975.
AZAB – the biggest ocean race leaving UK waters in 2023, with competitors from eight different nationalities – kicks off a blockbuster season of events which will draw thousands of crews and spectators to the “perfect showcase” of Falmouth Harbour – the third deepest natural harbour in the world.
The AZAB start is swiftly followed by the prestigious, inaugural Richard Mille Cup for classic superyachts from June 11 which is also hosted by the RCYC, a rare return for the world’s Tall Ships Festival and Race from 15 – 18 August, Falmouth Classics, International Shrimper Week, the Scheveningen50 Dutch Regatta, Powerboat racing and Falmouth Regatta Week.
Interspersing the major regattas are land-based events including the ever-popular Shanty Festival from June 16 – 18, the National Armed Forces Day on June 24 and Falmouth’s famous Oyster Festival from October 12 – 15.
Falmouth Harbour CEO Miles Carden says, “We have a highly experienced team poised to work with our friends around the “Atlantic Gateway” of Falmouth to make sure these incredible events run smoothly and safely for everyone concerned.
“It’s a logistical challenge that we’re well prepared for – from the mooring, berthing and provisioning of hundreds of vessels and their crews, to the needs of the many spectators from near or far who will be visiting for the racing whether it’s sailing or power-boating, brand new or classic.”
International competitors already signed up for AZAB are coming from as far afield as Australia – and include ocean racing legend (and former Royal Marine) Mervyn Wheatly sailing the AZAB for the 8th time, single-handedly, aboard his Bowman 40 Arethusa of Yealm.
Sarah Hancock, Commodore of Falmouth’s Royal Cornwall Yacht Club says, “Mervyn has been called ‘a hero among Corinthian ocean sailors’ and he embodies the spirit of the AZAB race – where competition is fierce but where generous camaraderie is embedded.
“He has raced and cruised all over the world and competed in our inaugural AZAB race back in 1975. He is ever a shining example to the wide range of competitors in the AZAB fleet – many of whom are taking part in their first long offshore race and find the company and support of such experienced sailors hugely reassuring and inspiring.”
The AZAB race was devised by the RCYC’s Colin Drummond in response to the desire for an ocean race which started and finished in the UK: it is a Category 1 yacht race involving five classes competing in two legs – the first from Falmouth to Ponta Delgada on São Miguel Island and the second, after a brief stopover, back to Falmouth.
The 2023 AZAB race, organised by the Royal Cornwall Yacht Club, is supported for the second time by title sponsor MailASail, specialists in satellite communications, alongside local partner sponsors including St Austell Brewery, Mainbrace Rum and Gin, and Falmouth Harbour.
Spectators can witness the exciting race start in Falmouth from 12 noon on Saturday 3 June – and also keep track of competitors throughout the race with live updates and social streams online at www.azab.co.uk/follow-the-azab.
All information about the race can be found on the event website – www.azab.co.uk – including photos of all the boats to look out for, competitor profiles and the full story of how the AZAB race began.