Whitbread Race veterans, including Tracy Edwards and Sir Chay Blyth, have met at the Ocean Globe Race village in Southampton ahead of the start of the retro round the world yacht race on Sunday

Whitbread Race veterans have shared their experiences during the numerous editions of the round the world yacht race at a special reunion evening in Southampton.

The event was held just days before the start of the Ocean Globe Race 2023, which will see 218 amateur sailors on 14 boats race around the world in four legs, using just the gear available to those who sailed in the 1973 Whitbread Race.

Whitbread Race veterans standing on a stage

Some of the many Whitbread Race veterans who attended the event. Credit: Katy Stickland

This means teams can’t use electric autopilots, computers, synthetic materials like Kevlar, and electric winches; navigation is by paper charts, sextant and the stars. Communication is via HF Single Side Band (SSB) Radio.

a man wearing a white shirt drinking from a tankard

Butch Dalrymple Smith crew on SAYULA winner of the 1973 Whitbread, drinking from his winners trophy mug! Credit: Cameron Schmidt OGR 2023

Sir Chay Blyth, who skippered the Gurney 77, Great Britain II in the first race, winning the third leg from Sydney to Rio de Janeiro, shared his race tips with the Ocean Globe Race skippers, as well as memories of the race, particularly his rivalry with French sailor, Éric Tabarly, who skippered the Mauric 74 ketch, Pen Duick VI.

Tabarly’s daughter, Marie will be leading a mainly French crew in the Ocean Globe Race aboard her father’s 33-ton yacht.

Maiden, which was raced by Tracy Edwards (who also took part in the 1985-86 Whitbread Race, as cook onboard Norsk Data GB and then Atlantic Privateer) and her all-female crew in the 1989-90 edition of the Whitbread, will also be crossing the start line on Sunday.

The yacht will be skippered by Heather Thomas.

Just as in 1989-90, Maiden is the only all-female crew taking part in the race, although in total, 65 women are racing in the event.

Whitbread Race veteran journalist, Barry Pickthall chatted to Edwards about the hostility and sexism the Maiden crew faced in 1989-90  – the first time an all-women crew had raced around the world – and how doubters were made to eat humble pie when Maiden won two of the six legs and finished second in class.

Edwards was also presented with the Yachtsman of the Year Award during the 1989-90 race – the first time it was won by a woman – by Sir Peter Blake, who won that edition of the Whitbread aboard the Farr 84 ketch, Steinlager 2. His widow, Lady Pippa Blake was also at the reunion.

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ADC Accutrac was raced to 5th place by British skipper, Clare Francis in the 1977 Whitbread Around the World Race, and the Sparkman and Stephens’s yacht is returning for the Ocean Globe Race, crewed by the Translated 9 team.

Clare Francis and seven members of the ADC Accutrac crew attended the reunion.

“We were a diverse group and we didn’t know each other very much before we started the race, but we all held together and we were out to make a success of it,” explained Francis, who was the first women to skipper an entry in a round the world yacht race.

“We had a great sense of camaraderie which was really important and OK, we didn’t win, but we tried hard and came 5th which we thought was pretty damn good and the boat stayed in one piece and we stayed in one piece which was the important thing.”

Lady Pippa Blake and Tracy Edwards MBE. Credit: Katy Stickland

Lady Pippa Blake and Tracy Edwards MBE. Credit: Katy Stickland

The Ocean Globe Race will start on 10 September 2023 at 1300 from the Royal Yacht Squadron start line, Cowes, UK.

Viewing of the start line can be seen from the beaches in Gurnard, Isle of Wight or Lepe Beach in the New Forest.

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