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Oldest videos of Transatlantic sailing races from the 1940s to the 1970s

by Magnus Smith 4 Feb 12:00 UTC
Atlantic Ocean map © NYPL

With the 10th edition of the RORC Transatlantic Race finishing in January, perhaps it is time to back at some much older Transats; there are a rare few which made it onto video, mostly thanks to British Pathé.

The oldest we could find is from 1949 when Vladimir Vestanovitch prepared to cross the Atlantic in a 20ft boat. It looks like the craft has been designed with no cockpit, just a watertight hatch aft. Such a shame the footage has no audio.

Skipping the 1950s entirely, the next video we can find is from 1967: Elizabeth Leeson leaves from Torquay to sail the Atlantic single-handed in her 22ft fibreglass yacht 'Wee Monarch'.

A busier moment was captured later in 1967: Transatlantic race start at Plymouth. Gipsy Moth III is visible (she won the first race in 1960) and other more eccentric craft, including what looks like a yellow submarine with a junk rig.

The next year we have a video that covers the pre-start and start in Plymouth: Solo Transatlantic Race 1968. Éric Tabarly can be seen climbing his trimaran's mast. Some of the plywood multihulls look positively home-made! Sadly the start line conditions were rainy and windless.

Finally there are interviews with competitors in Plymouth before the Transatlantic race 1972 start. Hear from Sir Francis Chichester first. Each sailors has their own opinion of how dangerous the crossing is.

What of the other decades?

Do you know the location of any Transatlantic race videos from the 1940s, 50s, or 80s? We would love to share these with other sailors. You can submit video links to us for immediate review.

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Our video archive is fully searchable, and linked to all the clubs and classes in our database. It is updated weekly with the latest videos of sailing, both racing and cruising.

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