Competitor advice

One of our aims in organising the AZAB is to offer a race that is of sufficient challenge for experienced offshore sailors and also is an opportunity for those committed and keen enough to venture on their first serious ocean race. The following was written by a local competitor who has taken part in 3 AZABs. For the first time competitor it gives you a lot to think about and as he states at the end if you have any questions or need further advice then please do contact us

This article is written with the sole purpose of pointing potential competitors in the right direction in preparing to enter the AZAB 2019 race.

It will be of little help to experienced ocean racers or those who have done the race before, but it hopefully will be of use to those new to this sort of challenge.

The author has taken part in three previous AZAB’s and so knows some of the pitfalls. In no way does he ever wish to appear patronising and apologies to those who thinks he is being so!

The first thing to realise is that this is a serious undertaking; 2,400 nautical miles of ocean racing and for a large amount of time out of range of helicopters and major shipping lanes.

Have you got, or about to get, the right boat to undertake this task? Are you thinking of doing this two handed or singlehanded?

A good place to start is with is the vessel herself. First of all read the AZAB2019 Notice of Race and then go on line to the ISAF Rules of Sailing OSR Category 1 for monohulls. Read the 2016 version but remember there may be some changes between now and 2019

Read through these ISAF rules and highlight anything which will have to be updated or added to your yacht in order to qualify. For example, do you have an AIS transponder? Does your life raft qualify? Have you an orange storm jib? Have you wooden bungs at all through hull sea cock fittings?

You will now be in a position to know how much work and expense there is to bring your yacht up to speed.

I suspect that a few of you will drop out at this stage! However for those who are still aboard let us continue.

About yourself; will you have an up to date First Aid qualification as per the rules? You will also have to have completed an offshore safety course within in the last 5 years. This is an extremely interesting 2 day course.

You and your yacht and your crew, if two handed, will have to complete a minimum 300 mile qualifier as per the NoR . This can be done independently or by participating in another appropriate race in the prescribed time frame. Just remember don’t assume that the race will be acceptable.  You should check with the race organisers that it will be allowed to count as your qualifier. Remember it is a minimum of 300miles and is there to largely prove to yourself that you (and your crew) are capable of completing this race without outside assistance. It may be that a longer passage in more challenging conditions is needed in order for you to know that. Remember if you get into difficulty on the race not only are you bound to waste your time, effort and money but also very likely to do the same to the fellow competitor/s who has had to divert off their race in order to render assistance. Use every opportunity to prepare yourself for the, race even if it means that you do a further extended passage yourself, to just confirm your commitment and abilities.

If you are going to enter as a singlehander, then give it careful thought.   Single handed ocean racers don’t have much sympathy for others who haven’t done their homework. There are critics of single handed sailing and the experienced singlehanders don’t wish to give them ammunition.

For those of you who are doing it two handed, also be warned. On all three of the last races some crews have ended up not speaking to each other. Choose your companion carefully because you will live in a confined space with them for at least 2 weeks, often under stressful conditions!  Your qualifying passage should prove something here and you may need to think about an alternative crew and a further qualifier if need be.

Your IRC handicap for 2019 will have to be obtained and for those who have not raced their yacht before you will need to fill out various forms with measurements which can be confusing. It takes time and patience! The IRC website is very useful in particular for first timers check out this link:

Provisioning and how much water to take etc. also needs to be thought about and it helps to keep notes on this subject during your qualifier as a guide.

For some the race will be expensive. The entry fee, the iridium sat phone, additional safety gear and all the courses add up. On a personal note, I never dared add up the cost, otherwise I probably wouldn’t have taken part or been allowed to take part by my wife!

The race has on no occasion, so far, had a loss of life and there is a great deal of support from fellow competitors during the race. The Corinthian spirit still exists and serious ocean racers sail alongside those who are there just for the experience.

If there are any questions that haven’t been covered then the race committee will be pleased to help but remember, we are all unpaid volunteers!

Good luck with your research and preparations. See you in Falmouth.