The original solo ocean race is back, as Corinthian as ever

The 2009 OSTAR single handed race across the Atlantic started off Plymouth on Sunday at 12.30. The Duke of Edinburgh, onboard Trinity House vessel Galatea, fired the starting cannon and the 36 competitors sailing a range of mono and multihulls set off for Newport, Rhode Island.

At 1130 this morning, just over 22 hours into the race, Austrian Reini Gelder’s 40ft trimaran Light of the World leads with Dutchman Dick Koopmans’ own design 35-footer Jager second and Spinning Wheel, Roberto Westerman’s Italian Open 40, third. Rob Craigie leads the British charge in third on his 40ft J122 JBellino. The fleet has a Force 4 northwesterly.

While the Vendee Globe may steal the headlines and produce the drama, solo ocean racing goes back to its roots every four years too. Blondie Haslar and Francis Chichester cooked up the original race, entirely Corinthian, in 1960. Ever since then, it’s been the pinnacle of many an ambitious club racer’s career, or a launch pad into professional ocean racing. Bag names that began their ascent to stardom in the OSTAR include Eric Tabarly, Pete Goss, Loick Peyron, Francis Joyon, Mike Golding, Michel Desjoyeaux and Dame Ellen MacArthur.

Yachting Monthly’s man-on-the-spot, Mark Fishwick, will be reporting in next month’s August issue on the motley crews lined up for the 2009 OSTAR

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