UK’s biggest ocean race poised for departure from Falmouth to Azores and Back


General News

June 1st

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

A 40-strong fleet of international racing yachts has converged on Falmouth Harbour, poised for Saturday’s start of the 2,400 mile MailASail AZAB race to the Azores archipelago in the mid-Atlantic and back again.

The four yearly race, devised and hosted by the Royal Cornwall Yacht Club since 1975, is the biggest ocean race leaving UK waters in 2023, involving competitors from eight different nationalities.

The AZAB start at 12.15 on Saturday 3 June off Pendennis Point will be a spectacle from land and sea as a flotilla of well-wishing water-craft see the racing fleet off across Falmouth Bay.

International competitors have come from as far afield as Australia – and include ocean racing legend (and former Royal Marine) Mervyn Wheatly sailing the AZAB for the 9th 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.

The MailASail AZAB race 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.”

The AZAB contenders are being hosted in Falmouth ahead of the start at 12.15 on Saturday 3 June – and spectators can also keep track of competitors throughout the race with live updates and social streams online at
All information about the race can be found on the event website – – including photos of all the boats to look out for, competitor profiles and the full story of how the AZAB race began.

Details of the Royal Cornwall Yacht Club’s hosting of AZAB and other events are at
To find out more about the work of Falmouth Harbour, Falmouth Haven and Falmouth Pilot Services, along with details of events through the 2023 season, visit

Azores bound – aerial Ed Wildgoose, HiFly Photography

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