Today at 12pm, over 60 boats set sail from Falmouth heading towards Ponta Delgada in the Azores archipelago. The fastest vessels will take around 7 days to reach their destination. Open to single and double handed crews and held over a 45 day period, the yachts usually allow a week or so to relax and restock for the return passage.
The course covers just less than 2500 miles of ocean, approximately 1220 miles on each leg. This year sailors from 10 countries are participating in the AZAB, which is something of an institution in British sailing. In 1975 it began with 52 boats setting off from Falmouth. Taking place every four years, 2011 marks the 10th race since it's inauguration. Race director Colin Drummond has said on the event website that, "There's a really good mixture of people wanting to do as well as they can, and then you have got some really hot racing boats. It's a wonderful mixture". The Azores archipelago has proved to be a great destination; completion requires top class seamanship, but also boasts a course clear of major shipping lanes. Heading west the English Channel, the first day looks like it will bring gentle wind for the crews.
It is expected that the return race from the Azores will begin on June 21st. To follow the progress of the AZAB, visit the website here.