The AZAB, also known as Azores and Back race is a 2,400 mile ocean regatta which starts in Falmouth and goes to the port of Ponta Delgada, on the Azore’s Island of São Miguel. Competitors take a brief respite on the island before turning around and racing back to Falmouth
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 Second World War. Since the first race in 1975 AZAB has been organised by RCYC every fourth year onwards.
The race destination, Ponta Delgada, is one out of nine Azores Archipelago Islands that lie in the Eastern Atlantic. They are approximately 750 nautical miles off the coast of Portugal and some 1220 miles from Falmouth.
The majority of yachts that participate in the race usually take between 7 – 10 days to reach the Azores, allowing a week or so to relax for the return passage. The town of Ponta Delgada has many excellent restaurants and a wide range of shops and markets within walking distance, so competitors should have no difficulty in storing up for the return leg.
These Azores islands have long been a popular traveller’s route for seafarers, ever since the discovery by the Portuguese in the early 15th Century. Columbus visited one of Ponta Delgada’s neighbor islands on his way back to Spain from the New World in 1493. The islands were also used to be a staging post for richly laden treasure ships back in its day, which made it a magnet for pirates and privateers of all nations.
How and why did AZAB begin?
In 1981 the first two-handed transatlantic race was held and again around 100 yachts left Plymouth this time for Newport Rhode Island. However, for many yachtsmen, taking part in a transatlantic race is an impossible dream. Costs are high and three months or so are needed to prepare the boat, compete and then bring her home.
In 1972 Chris Smith wrote a letter to Yachting World magazine suggesting that a shorter solo ocean race should be held. As a result Andrew Bray, Spud Spedding and Colin Drummond met with Chris to discuss setting up such a race. The Royal Cornwall Yacht Club agreed to host the British end. The Azores archipelago was picked as an ideal destination – distant enough to provide a real challenge within a four to six week time-limit and to be pleasantly “foreign” on arrival, with a course clear of major shipping lanes. The first AZORES AND BACK RACE took place in 1975 with 52 starters.
With such a turnout, and so many competitors clamouring for a repeat event, it was decided to follow the lead of Ostar and hold AZAB at four yearly intervals. The second race in 1979 accepted two-handed as well as single-handed entries, an obviously popular decision, as in 1999 only about one yacht in 10 was sailed single-handed. The course covers just less than 2500 miles of ocean, approximately 1220 miles on each leg. The majority of yachts usually take between 7 and 10 days to reach the AZORES allowing a week or so to relax and restock for the return passage.
The race is for single/two handed yachts and every occurs every 4 years.