Hosting offshore racing events in marinas

Hosting offshore racing events in marinas

The 10th edition of the RORC Transatlantic Race set off from Marina Lanzarote this January and I was delighted to be invited to run the race start commentary together with Press Officer Trish Jenkins and sailor and writer, Enda O’Coineen.

Many boats in this fleet were new to me and so preparation started with chatting to the crews and listening to their stories. As final preparations were being put in place, there was a palpable atmosphere of excitement on the docks - tinged in some cases with a little anxiety. 3000nm is no small distance and beyond the emotional challenge of sailing offshore, carrying enough provisions and spares is essential – whilst not compromising performance due to too much weight.

This race attracts an incredibly diverse mix of boats, from 11m monohulls to sleek maxis and record-breaking MOD 70 trimarans, all competing in their respective classes. Crew sizes differ from just two members to totalling over 20 sailors on board, and the level of experience varies from seasoned professional offshore racers to a fair few undertaking their very first transatlantic crossing. With two significant and unusually south-spreading depressions, the forecast for the crossing was another reminder that every eventuality needs to be carefully considered.

Gathering support

For marinas, hosting an offshore race event start can be a major coup, attracting international acclaim and positioning the facility in yachting circles and beyond. That said, it can require substantial financial, logistical, and human resources, which involves investing time in setting up reliable and mutually beneficial collaborations with local or regional authorities and private-sector sponsors.  

Preferences for organisers tend to be to berth boats as close as possible which can be logistically challenging, and few marinas are able to host performance yachts drawing up to 5 or even 7 metres. Relevant languages are required, and crews need nearby facilities such as hotels, restaurants, and marine services. Some teams are fairly autonomous, while others may request help with matters such as tracking packages, sourcing parts, storage or customs procedures.

Expert on-the-water support is also essential, with local knowledge handy for organising the start line, helping to maximise visibility, and supplying extra RIBS for escorting media crew or marshalling the marks to avoid collisions with spectators. The host destination will often be asked to provide a hospitality programme, for which venues, catering and permissions will all need to be acquired. Social events provide the means to build inter-team camaraderie and for the host to create a positive impression on the fleet and race organisers, showcasing their cultural and gastronomic heritage.

Engaging the local and boating community

Optimum media coverage is highly desirable in both the preferential language(s) used by the organiser, and the host’s native language. The event can provide opportunities to enhance a reputation by promoting the destination to an attractive international audience; perhaps also celebrating local nautical heritage or procuring emblematic photos of the landscape from the sea. Specialist interest groups can be invited to visit the yachts, such as local sailing youth or maritime students, etc., or schools can get involved in science projects being carried out by specific boats, boosting the connection with the host destination.

The values of offshore racing are also relevant and should be celebrated as part of the event, such as fair competition, nautical proficiency, teamwork, adventure, resilience and tradition. As an events host, we share a key role in nourishing a passion for the sea and for commending nautical excellence; supporting the wider boating community and helping establish new standards in racing and sailing craft.

Image: Maggie Adamson and Gavin Howe on Sun Fast 3600 Tigris – RORC Transatlantic Race © Robert Hajduk