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Advances in Ocean Racing

Over the next couple of decades, yacht design for ocean racers moved swiftly and the introduction of multihulled catamarans and trimarans into ocean racing was making an impact. By the 1950's synthetic fibres were introduced and more sophisticated equipment began to bring about change. By the 1960's a more ruthless attitude to racing was emerging and the competitive spirit was sharpened by the introduction of such races as the Admiral's Cup and other major events. The Fastnet of 1965 saw the design of a radical new boat - Rabbit - a 34-foot sloop, which incorporated new ideas ensuring its victory in Class III.

The 1965 Admiral's Cup had also attracted teams from Sweden, Holland, France and the US. Irish and Australian teams also took part as relative newcomers. In 1967 the Australians took the Admiral's Cup trophy back to Sydney showing they were now in the same league as the Americans and Europeans.

By the 1970's British ocean racing saw a great upsurge in popularity with heroes such as Francis Chichester, Robin Knox-Johnston and the then leader of the Conservative party, Edward Heath achieving 7th in class with Morning Cloud in the 1969 Fastnet and going on to lead the British Admiral's Cup team to victory in 1971.

In 1973 the International Offshore Rule (IOR) was introduced as the sport began to grow and inter-ocean racing expanded. Sponsorships were also introduced and ocean racing was now a professional sport.

Fastnet 1979

1979 will stick in everyone's memory as the year of the Fastnet tragedy when the biggest-ever fleet of 303 was caught in a vicious storm when led to 17 deaths. Following the disaster, New Special Regulations were introduced to improve watertight integrity, trisails and VHF radios became mandatory, qualifications for competing were introduced and the number of starters limited to 300. In 1983 restrictions on electronic aids were also lifted.

Sources:

The Royal Ocean Racing Club programme, archives
The Royal Ocean Racing Club, Ian Dear - published by Adlard Coles 2000
The Champagne Mumm Book of Ocean Racing - An Illustrated History, Ian Dear - published by Severn House Publishers 1985

Race Office at the Finish

  • Shaw Way, Mount Batten, Plymouth
  • +44 (0) 1983 295 144
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Race Office at the Start

  • 82 High Street, Cowes
  • +44 (0) 1983 295 144
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