In 1959, at the request of Lt.Col. H.G. (Blondie) Hasler, the Royal Western Yacht Club decided to organize a single-handed transatlantic race – and so a tradition was born.
Blondie Hasler had for some time been trying to promote the idea of a single-handed race across the Atlantic against the prevailing winds and currents. 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 11th June 1960 and will finish off Sheepshead Bay, in the approaches to New York, at least a month later”.
He had interested Francis Chichester – hence the story of the half crown (twelve and a half pence/twenty five cent) wager – and several others, but was unable to find an organizer or sponsor willing to move from the familiar full-crewed or ‘cruise in company’ racing to such a dangerous sounding innovation. But Blondie persevered and, with Francis Chichester, approached the RWYC whose Commodore at the time was Sir Winston Churchill and got a positive response.
With a yacht club of repute to take on the organization of the race, Blondie then obtained the sponsorship of The Observer newspaper and so the RWYC Observer Single-Handed Trans-Atlantic Race, or OSTAR, came about.
Of the eight entries for that first race, four crossed the start line on 11 June 1960 and a fifth, Jean Lacombe, started three days later. Forty days later Francis Chichester, in Gipsy Moth III, crossed the finish line to great media and public acclaim. All five competitors finished successfully with Jean Lacombe finally crossing the line in his 21ft Cap Horn some 76 days after the start.
The OSTAR was established and has been sailed every four years since.
The Royal Western Yacht Club of England is partnered with the Newport Yacht Club to bring you this exciting race again in 2013. The race which begins outside the break water in Plymouth Sound, Devon, UK finishes off of Castle Hill Light here in Newport.
This race is supported by the Rhode Island State Yachting Committee.