The 11 biggest boat races in the world

Fastnet Race

Whether you’re a boating enthusiast or an amateur, take a look at the top 10 boat races in the world!

Single-handed or in a team, with or without a stopover, transatlantic crossing or round-the-world race, there are many boat races around the world. Hoist the mainsail, Generation Voyage brings you the top 10 of the most famous yacht races!

1. The Vendée Globe

Le Vendée Globe - courses bateaux

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Thomas Pajot

Considered the greatest round-the-world sailing race to date, the Vendée Globe is a single-handed, non-stop, non-assisted race.

This not-to-be-missed French race, created in 1989, takes place every 4 years from Les Sables d’Olonne in Vendée (where the finish is also held), and brings together the best 60-foot monohull yachts.

In fact, the competition is nicknamed « The Everest of the Sea », due to its complexity! In fact, it’s considered to be the most difficult race for sailors. Logical, given that the record is 74 days, 3 hours, 35 minutes and 46 seconds.

2. The America’s Cup

La Coupe de l'America (America's Cup)

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Leightonoc

A sailing competition since 1851, the America’s Cup takes its name from the first winning yacht, the schooner « America ». Mythical and international in scope, it is one of the oldest sporting competitions, and its frequency varies (between 3 and 5 years).

During this race, the defender, i.e. the cup holder, puts his title on the line against challengers and organizes the regattas as he sees fit.

3. The Route du Rhum

La Route du Rhum - courses bateaux

Photo credit: Shutterstock – WorldPictures

Relatively short (around ten days), this Atlantic crossing links the town of Saint-Malo in Brittany to Pointe-à-Pitre in Guadeloupe.

Created in 1978, this solo sailing race, which follows in the footsteps of the old merchant ships, takes place every 4 years. Its record, set by Francis Joyon in the 2018 edition, is 7 days, 14 hours, 21 minutes and 47 seconds.

4. The Volvo Ocean Race

La Volvo Ocean Race

Photo credit: Shutterstock – JLOrtin

Monohulls are back in the spotlight with the Ocean Race. This crewed round-the-world race aboard a sailing boat is now held every 3 years (since the 2008-2009 edition, instead of every 4 years).

An extreme ocean marathon that has seen the best sailors battle it out on the world’s toughest seas since 1973, this is a 45,000-mile stage race. While the start is always inAlicante, the finish changes host city with each edition.

5. The Jules Verne Trophy

Le Trophée Jules Verne - courses bateaux

Photo credit: Flickr – Mona

The Jules Verne Trophy is a nautical challenge whose aim is to circumnavigate the globe (40,300 km) as quickly as possible, without stopovers or assistance. The trophy is only awarded in the event of a new record, currently 40 days, 23 hours, 30 minutes and 30 seconds.

Every year since 1993, this crewed sailing race has taken place from Ouessant (Brittany) to Lizard Point (Great Britain).

6. La Solitaire du Figaro

La Solitaire du Figaro

Photo credit: Flickr – William Murphy

Far from being an ordinary race, the Solitaire du Figaro has been held every year since 1970. This single-handed sailing race is divided into 3 or 4 legs, and never follows the same course.

What’s more, the sailors don’t have a choice of boat – they all have the same one. The race is therefore open to amateurs.

7. Transat Jacques-Vabre

La Transat Jacques-Vabre - courses bateaux

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Frolphy

Nicknamed the « coffee route », this transatlantic double-handed race (crew of 2 sailors) links Le Havre to Brazil.

Organized every 2 years since 1993, it lasts from ten to twenty days on average. Although the record time was just 7 days, 22 hours and 7 minutes (no less).

8. Tall Ships’ Race

La Tall Ships' Race

Photo credit: Flickr – Gary Bembridge

This is an international school yacht race, where only boats measuring at least 9.14 meters in length compete. It takes place mainly in Northern Europe (Atlantic coast, North Sea and Baltic Sea).

The first race took place in 1956, with the aim of fostering international friendship and exchange, and introducing young sailors to the art of navigation.

9. The Fastnet Race

Fastnet Race - courses bateaux

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Alvov

First held in 1925, this regatta challenges the world’s greatest skippers. A non-stop crewed sailing race, it takes place every 2 years (in odd-numbered years), between Cowes and Plymouth, England.

It’s one of the most dangerous and testing of all yacht races. In 1979, no fewer than 15 sailors lost their lives due to disastrous weather conditions.

10. The Admiral’s Cup

Created in 1957, the Admiral’s Cup is an offshore yacht race. It takes place over 6 legs, in teams of 3 sailboats.

Unfortunately, the race has not been held since 2005, due to a lack of participants. But for some time now, the desire for a triumphant return of the Admiral’s Cup, which remains one of the most prestigious races at sea, has been growing!

11. The Mini Transat: the editor’s favourite

La Mini-Transat

Photo credit: Shutterstock – irabel8

A solo, unassisted transatlantic race aboard 6.50-meter monohull yachts, the Mini Transat was created in 1977. Every two years (odd-numbered years), this crossing takes place in two legs, starting from France.

After Concarneau, Brest, Douarnenez, Fort Boyard and La Rochelle, this year’s start is in Les Sables d’Olonne. Sailors head for the Canary Islands or Madeira for a 10-day stopover before heading for the West Indies.

Although this year’s race finishes in Guadeloupe (as on many previous occasions), some editions have ended in Antigua, Martinique and even Salvador de Bahia in Brazil.

  • Good to know:
  • The Mini Transat is also known as the Transat 6.50 or the Mini Transat La Boulangère.