Top 10 yachting races in the world

Posted by jan-kees.mons

The yachting calendar counts a multitude of different events. After having witnessed the spectacle of the Americas Cup in February and the Louis Vuitton Trophy in March, focus is now turning to the Carribean and to the announcement of the final routing of the 2011/12 edition of the Volvo Ocean Race. We have attempted to list the top 10 yachting events in the world, taking into account issues like coverage, price money, quality of sailors and the history or future potential of an event. The list includes different formats of racing, such as single handed, around the world, ocean, coastal and fleetracing. Clearly the list and rankings are arbitrary but they should give an indication on which events deliver the best spectacle and value.

10. Olympic Games: the Olympics are the greatest sporting spectacle in the world and hence they should be part of our top 10. The Games have produced great sailing legends of the likes of Ben Ainslee, Ian Percy and Torben Grael to name a few. Hence the Games should be seen as a breeding ground for great sailors. Adding that the Games are also being watched by many millions of spectators around the world, we have got 2 major reasons why they should be on our list. Having said so, for television purposes the races are not as spectacular as some of the other events listed below, so work in progress we would say.

9. The World Match Racing Tour. Matchracing is the future and that’s why this event is in! It’s fun, fast and furious and hence should appeal to the younger crowd, important for the future growth of the sports. The World Match Racing Tour is attracting great talent with some of the best sailors in the world, such as Adam Minoprio, sailing legend Peter Gilmour and aces like Ian Williams and Ben Ainslee. Whereas the sport of sailing/yachting is still primarily dependent on sponsoring (particularly B2B), match racing should be very interesting for television as well as for hospitality purposes, which should give the sports a good platform to expand and to become more popular. Close to shore, short races, technical assistance such as virtual eye, on-board cameras and on-board interviews make the sport a lot more appealing to not only TV but also to different user groups. Although it is still lacking the tradition of some of the other events, the upward potential has made us decide to include it on our list.

8. Antigua Sailing Week. The Antigua Sailing Week is the biggest regatta in the Carribean and over the last two decades, Antigua Sailing Week has developed into one of the biggest events in the World Sailing calendar. It is a week of races where some of the biggest, fastest and most impressive sailing yachts in the world packed with Olympic, America’s Cup and round the world sailors are competing. Adding the variety in races, the big boats and the great party atmosphere and here we have an event that should not be lacking on anyone’s list!

7. Cowes week; the Cowes week is tradition all the way. Since 1826 it is one of the UK’s longest running and most successful sporting events. With 40 daily races for over 1,000 boats, 8,500 competitors (amateurs and professionals) and 100,000 spectators, it is without a doubt the largest sailing regatta of its kind in the world. With these numbers and this longstanding tradition, it belongs without a doubt within our top 10 of sailing race events in the world.

6 . Louis Vuitton Trophy. Maybe the Trophy has not proven its existence yet but following up on the success of the old Louis Vuitton Cup, it could be a blast! Putting together the exciting format of match racing, Americas Cup Class yachts, some of the best monohull sailors in the world (Barker, Cayard, Ainslie, Bruni) and a large crowd, makes for a great event. Adding large TV screens on site and side events in places such as Auckland, La Maddalena in Sardinia, Nice, Dubai and Hong Kong and you have a great experience that you do not want to miss. As stated before match racing has great potential for the future and that’s why we have included the trophy.

5. Fastnet race. Every sailor has heard of the Fastnet Race. It is one of the most famous offshore yachting races counting 608 nautical miles and taking place along the southern coasts of the UK and Ireland. Weather conditions always play a key role here; either big storms or relatively quiet weather determine a fast and furious or a tactical race. Similar to Sydney Hobart the Fastnet has had its share of casualties, underlining the fact the race is not without danger. With many big names participating and a long history, we rank the Fastnet at 5.

4. Sydney Hobart; say Christmas, Bass Strait, Tasmania, new year and spectacular racing and sailing fanatics filled with passion immediately will answer: Sydney-Hobart!! Without a doubt the Race is one of the most well-known iconic brand names in sailing. With the exception of the Volvo Ocean Race and the Americas Cup there is no yachting event attracting such huge media coverage. The “Bluewater Classic” has grown over the last 64 years to become one of the top three offshore yacht races in the world and now attracts maxi yachts from all around the globe. One of the reasons for the popularity of the race are the unpredictable and sometimes grueling conditions with high winds and difficult seas, sadly having also led to tragedies. Finally a top 10 list should not be complte without a race in one of the most crazed sailing nations, Australia.

3. Vendee Globe The Vendée Globe is a round the world single handed yacht race, sailed non-stop and without assistance. The race was founded by in 1989, and since 1992 has taken place every four years. As the only single-handed non-stop round-the-world race, one can say it is probably the most extreme form of ocean racing, being a serious test of individual endurance. Not surprisingly a significant portion of the entrants usually retire, but the one succeeding waits eternal fame and prey. Names as two times winner Desjoyeaux and Ellen Mc Arthur are just some of the wellknown heroes who succeeded in finishing the race, but there are many more……the Vendee (similar to the Volvo Ocean Race) now has leveraged its race to the on-line community with hundred’s of thousands of participants. This convergence no doubt will further add to the popularity of the Vendee!

2. Americas Cup. And then there is the Americas Cup! Of course the Americas Cup should be on the number one spot! However, we chose not to do so after the recent dismantling of the Cup. Although the actual race in Valencia was awesome to watch and a magnificent display of technology, the 33rd Americas Cup sadly will go into the history books as the one mainly battled out in Court. In this perspective Larry Ellison is left with a big responsibility to regain the status that the Americas Cup should have; the world’s most prestigious sailing event. We trust Ellison and Coutts to be able to do this. Sailing is in their hearts and that’s why we believe the 34th version will be a blast! It is likely to be a multichallenger event, more international than ever before and great for spectators; there will be short furious races, cameras and microphones on-board, leading to an on-board experience and likely a new much more affordable to many boat type. It should excite young people and certainly when the Cup will take place in San Franciso, which will receive a huge economic boost as a result of the Cup. If Ellison and co. is able to do this, the Americas Cup will be the flagship event of sailing again that it once used to be. In that case the Cup will regain the number one spot on our list again.

1. Volvo Ocean Race. The Formula One of sailing! For sailors it is one of the ultimate sailing experiences, tough and asking enormous endurance capabilities. Subsequently it attracts together with the Americas Cup the best sailors of the world. Similar to Formula One team budgets have increased tremendously, limiting the number of campaigns. The new rules should improve this situation and make the race more accessible again. For spectators the race offers plenty. The boats are like race horses reaching enormous speeds in wild conditions at sea offering some good pictures and films taken by on-board media guys. Additionally (similar to the Vendee) the Race has converged with the on-line community that even assisted the Green Dragon in the last Volvo Ocean Race. The Race is attracting huge gatherings in the ports where the fleet makes a stop-over. In these ports a variety of side events combined with in-port races guarantee a great experience and a great boost to economic activity. The combination of the best sailors and boats in the world, endurance, round the world, experience, economic and media impact makes the Volvo Ocean Race the best package in our opinion and that is why it is the number one on our list!

No doubt the list offers plenty of room for debate. Feel free to comment, add or delete events and share your opinion!

Be Sociable, Share!

5 Responses to “Top 10 yachting races in the world”

  1. Péter Füzi (HUN) Says:


    thanks for this article. It provides me, a yachtman in Central-Europe a revelation.
    I’ve participated unfortunately at none of these regattas, still the majority of them is regarded by me too as of main events of our nice sport. The rest serve to my better understanding on the scene.

    With my head I’d consider Kieler Woche and Hyeres Regatta as events of top significance within Europe with serious international attendance (In 1978, once in my life I could attend and participate Kieler Woche in 470). Our younger sailing colleagues refer to the Centomiglia Regatta as an other important event that could perhaps be a subject of such a ranking consideration.

    On the other hand it would be interesting to have some more insights about candidate events organized in other continents like Asia and America too. Maybe it reveals my personal bottlenecks :), in spite of my committed internet browsing I have had almost no information about them.

    Ultimately a last point: your ranking proposal can help local sailors, clubs and national associations to allocate the regattas they are participating in/responsible for on a more
    established, more objective scale.

    I made a translation into hungarian for the sake of our sailing community: you can find it at
    I hope and ask your kind support to this publication.

    Thank you, with kind regards,
    Peter Füzi
    yachtman, ex member of the Hungarian Olympic Team
    (C, 420, 470, Dragon, E-30, Elliott 770)
    admin of VVSz website

  2. Caroline Says:

    Hi I’m writing a thesis on the Rolex Middle Sea Yacht Race, part of the Rolex yachting series. I’m wondering where you would place it and if you have any interesting information for me.
    I look forward to heaing from you. Kindest regards,

  3. jan-kees.mons Says:

    Hello Caroline,
    Thx for your comment! The Rolex Middle Sea Yacht Race is certainly a prestigious one and starting in a couple of weeks. As far as I know more than 60 boats will participate of which some of the big yachts like Ran and Esimit Europa. You can find more info on their site….I do not think it should rank in the top 10 but it is an interesting race; however there are more interesting ones taking place in the Mediterannee I believe. Nice paintings by the way!

    best regards
    Jan Kees

  4. Milind Paranjpe Says:

    Where would you place Jules Verne trophy?
    I intend to write an article on it.
    Thanks and best rgds
    Milind Paranjpe

  5. jan-kees.mons Says:

    The Jules Verne trophy could certainly be a potential top 10 candidate. Is is high profile but simultaneously there is a big but…….it is not a real race amongst yachts. You can subscribe and circumgate the world and try to beat the record, a formidable achievement if you succeed, but you are still not racing head to head

Leave a Reply