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It’s not just in northern Europe that the two-handed offshore racing movement continues to gather pace

In my last column I talked about why doublehanded sailing is so appealing. If that has inspired you, then this column will inform you of some of the best doublehanded opportunities this season. The numerous two-handed communities now sprouting up around the world are ready to embrace you and help with questions about boats, set-up, manoeuvres, races, sails and technology if you reach out to them.

In the UK the 2023 Fastnet Race already has a remarkable 100 twohanders registered. This underlines the growth of doublehanded sailing in northern Europe and is a huge leap compared to the 59 DH boats that took part in 2021.

Fastnet participants are coming from near and far. Farthest travelled will be Jules Hall and Jan Scholten from Sydney. They are the 2021 DH winners of the Sydney Hobart Race and the 2023 winners of the Sydney Doublehanded Offshore Series on their J99 Disko Trooper. They have chartered a sister J99 in the UK for the event. ‘It’s extremely exciting to have the opportunity to line up against such a huge two-handed fleet in such a historic event,’ says Hall. ‘Two-handed offshore racing is a still rapidly emerging discipline in Australia – most important it’s making ocean racing accessible to a new audience of Australian sailors.’ Doublehanded sailing has been growing in Australia and in 2022 Jules led the creation of the Sydney Doublehanded Offshore Series, modelled on the UK Doublehanded Offshore series. He can be contacted at .

Main picture: The latest in the string of modern two-handed IRC designs that are steadily appearing to meet demand, Didier Gaudoux’s new one-off Sam Manuard and Bernard Nivelt demiscow Lan Ael III is very much aimed at repeating Goudoux’s Fastnet win of 2017 – but now racing two-handed

The Fastnet also has four doublehanded entries from Poland. There the discipline has been growing since 2017 with a doublehanded series based in Gdynia. ‘Off-Short Racing’ has 30-50 sailors each year taking part in a series that in 2023 will have eight events. Organiser Pawel Wilkowski tells me, ‘We have now developed a satellite tracking platform, S-track, to improve safety and attract more spectators and hopefully more sponsors. Our plan also includes the start of an Offshore Academy where sailors can learn more about safe and effective shorthanded sailing.’ There are already plenty of doublehanded races happening in the Baltic including the Baltic 500, Round Sealand (230nm), Gotland Runt (353nm) and Rund Denmark. The next ORC Doublehanded European Championship also takes place in Denmark. Pawel can be contacted at .

In the USA momentum is slowly growing with a Young American Sailing Academy led by Peter Becker. The Bermuda Short-Handed Return Race was run for the first time in 2022 with two divisions – solo and DH. There were 20 entries and further interest from other boats but whose participation was curtailed by issues of insurance.

In 2023 there is the Bermuda 1-2 Race, run since 1977. The 2023 edition has 22 entries ranging from a Finot-Conq 53 (Stanley Paris) to an L30 (Diane Reid). The race is appealing to a broad audience, with 40 per cent of participants new to the race and the line-up including three family teams, five female skippers and one all-female entry.

In March North Sails in Rhode Island held a shorthanded evening with 150 in attendance. Ken Read and Suzie Leech, who successfully race a Sunfast 3300, talked about what they loved about the discipline; particularly how you are not pigeon-holed to one role and how good it is to stay active for the whole race. They also discussed the value of diversity as Ken and Suzie both bring very different skills to the partnership. Ellie Driver (UK Sailor of the Year) came over from the UK to talk about her successful season on Chilli Pepper and some of the UK initiatives to create pathways into the sport for younger adults. Finally, the team announced the creation of the New England Doublehanded Championship, a new offshore doublehanded series based on the UK model. Contact Jonathan Banks at .

New to the racing calendar is this year’s two-race IRC Doublehanded European Championship. This is expected to appeal to teams across northern Europe, particularly French and British sailors. The first race is La Trinité to Cowes (350nm), then Cowes-St Malo. Deb Fish (Sunfast 3600 Bellino) explains why she enjoys participating: ‘It’s a great chance to meet up with our French friends and enjoy two very interesting courses. The biggest challenge will be the depth of the competition – plus racing through the Raz de Sein and Chenal du Four!’

In Italy the Marina Militare Nastro Rosa Tour will provide another season of doublehanded racing opportunities in the Mediterranean. There teams can charter well-matched Figaro 3s for the Doublehanded Offshore European, World and Women’s Championships, or racers can complete a tour of Italy either from Genoa to Venice in eight legs or a formidable return 1,492nm non-stop race from Venice to Genoa…

If you thought shorthanded sailing remained a niche activity then think again... wherever you may do your sailing.
Kate Cope, UK Doublehanded Series

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