OSTAR sailors think of others


Three OSTAR (Original Single handed Trans-Atlantic Race) competitors are using this challenge of a lifetime to raise more than £100,000 for two charities and highlight their work.

The Institute of Cancer Research is receiving support from Italian competitor Marco Naninni and Briton John Falla. Investment banker Marco, from Torino, Italy, is an ongoing supporter of the ICR London and has already raised more than £12,000 through sailing challenges. On this special occasion his employer has pledged to match any funds he will raise up to an additional £10,000.

Corporate financier John Falla plans to fulfil a long-held desire to compete in the race and raise funds for the charity and he has spent the last three years preparing his 36ft Swan Banjaard. Both competitors are raising an astounding £50,000 for the charity, which is a favourite for OSTAR sailors. The Institute of Cancer Research is Europe’s leading cancer research centre, with expert scientists working on cutting edge research, so it is no surprise it receives such support. OSTAR veteran and breast cancer survivor Mary Falk has raised more than £85,000 for the ICR and has completed three OSTARs. Her 1996 record of 19 days, 12 hours and 57 minutes for monohulls in the 35 foot class remains unbroken.

Austrian competitor Reinhard Gelder is sailing on behalf of Austrian charity, Light for the World. The organisation is committed to helping people in underprivileged regions of the world who suffer from blindness or related eye diseases.

The charity’s current goal is to finance ten primary eye care units in a remote area in South East Ethiopia. The Somali region has the highest percentage of blind people in the country (5.4% of the population) where one person in twenty is blind. Around 50% of these have lost their sight as a result of cataracts and could have it restored through a simple eye operation which lasts less than 15 minutes.

Reinhard has been actively supporting Light for the World since he observed firsthand the poor conditions of the third world and the resulting problems. He has branded his trimaran ‘Light for the World.org’ and hopes to raise awareness and money for the organisation’s ‘Prevention of Blindness’ programme in the Somali region.

John Falla commented: “I’m looking forward to the 2009 OSTAR race, albeit with some trepidation. It is an enormous challenge but knowing I’m doing it for a good cause gives me lots of encouragement.”

David Southwood, Race Director of OSTAR 2009, commented: “OSTAR receives international attention so it is encouraging to know that this awareness could work towards helping others. Both charities provide invaluable support and research and we are proud to have such links with them.”

Dating back to 1960, the OSTAR (Original Single-handed Trans-Atlantic Race) is the world’s oldest solo ocean challenge and has seen sailors departing from Plymouth every four years for nearly five decades. Organised by Plymouth’s Royal Western Yacht Club, the race has generated international attention, drawing competitors from all over the sailing world, and attracting crowds of visitors to Plymouth to see the boats depart. 

Some of the world’s greatest sailors have taken part including Eric Tabarly, Pete Goss, Loick Peyron, Françis Joyon, Mike Golding, Michel Desjoyeaux, and Ellen MacArthur. The 2009 race includes entrants from Britain, Austria, France, Holland, Germany, Ireland, Italy, and the USA.

The race departs from Plymouth Sound at midday on Bank Holiday Monday, 25th May. All members of the public are welcome to see the boats depart and be a part of the excitement.