The first British long-distance yacht race for solo sailors was the Single-handed Transatlantic Race which reputedly grew out of a half-crown bet and was first held in 1968. Just four yachts left Plymouth all of which reached New York safely. The winner was Sir Francis Chichester in Gypsy Moth II.
Sponsorship from the Observer and news from the Observer newspaper caused someone like to coin the name Ostar a name that has stuck, much the annoyance of subsequent sponsors. Since then the race has taken place every four years.
In 1981 the first two-handed transatlantic race was held and again around 100 yachts left Plymouth this time for Newport Rhode Island. However, for many yachtsmen, taking part in a transatlantic race is an impossible dream. Costs are high and three months or so are needed to prepare the boat, compete and then bring her home. In 1972 Chris Smith wrote letter to Yachting monthly magazine suggesting that a shorter solo ocean race should be held. As a result Andrew Bray, Spud Spedding and Colin Drummond met to discuss setting up such a race. The Royal Cornwall Yacht Club agreed to host the British end.
The AZORES archipelago was picked as an ideal destination - distant enough to provide a real challenge within a four to six week time-limit and to be pleasantly 'foreign' on arrival, with a course clear of major shipping lanes.
The first AZORES AND BACK RACE took place in 1975 with 52 starters. With such a turnout, and so many competitors clamouring from a repeat event, it has decided to follow the lead of Ostar and hold Azab at four yearly intervals.
The second race in 1979 accepted two-handed as well as single-handed entry entries, an obviously popular decision as in 1999 only about one yacht in 10 was sailed single-handed.
The course covers just less than 2500 miles of ocean, approximately 1220 miles on each leg. The majority of yachts usually take between 7 and 10 days to reach the AZORES allowing a week or so to relax and restock for the return passage. AZAB 2003 had forty-eight entries.