Autumn is swiftly arriving, bringing with it big winds and choppy waters. Landlubbers stay indoors and sensible sailors head to the protected Mediterranean or warmer Caribbean waters. But a certain group of the sailing elite ready themselves for a war at the wind’s mercy, because with stronger winds come bigger regattas.

Spurred on by a recent world record in the Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland Race, keen sailors are now itching for the start of their ‘Formula One’. The autumn season is chock-full of upcoming sea-borne spectacles, making it the perfect time to enter the exhilarating world of yacht racing. From the Volvo Ocean Race, which only occurs every three years and is finally set to start again from Alicante on October 4th, to the globetrotting World Match Racing Tour, these international yacht races are not to be missed.

Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup & Mini Maxi Rolex World Championship (31st August – 6th September)

Yacht Races | Maxi Rolex Cup

The Maxi Rolex Cup draws vessels from around the world to the Sardinian coast © Maxi Rolex Cup


A race with over 30 years of history behind it, the Maxi Rolex Cup draws vessels from around the world to a small stretch of the Sardinian coast. Starting in the beautiful Porto Cervo, the week of regattas are designed to showcase some of the most stunning custom-built yachts in the world. What makes this race particularly special is the size of the contestants, which range from the Mini Maxi (18-24m) up to the Supermaxi (>30.5m). The competitive spirit means collisions aren’t just common but expected, with success measured as overall damage versus placing.

World Match Racing Tour (17th – 21st September)

Yacht Races | World Match Racing Tour

The World Match Racing Tour holds stages across the globe © Robert Hajduk/AWMRT


Match racing tests raw abilities in a one-on-one format, providing intense yacht races for participants and spectators alike. Add to the formula world-class crews, boats, and locations and you have the glamorous World Match Racing Tour. With stages already completed in Germany, Sweden and Poland, the upcoming Chicago race, which starts on 17th September, kicks off the second half of the global tour. The remaining stages in the Netherlands, Bermuda and finally Malaysia will bring new boats and new climates, ensuring there’s never any certainty of success.

Régates Royales (21st – 28th September)

Yacht Races | Régates Royales

The Régates Royales is held along the shimmering Côte d’Azur © Régates Royales


The famous Régates Royale is named in honour of the French royalty who participated in Cannes’s early regattas. Dating to as early as 1860, the regatta draws a host of the world’s most beautiful yachts. More of a festival than a high-intensity competition, the racing is broken up by cocktail parties with live entertainment. The event stands out for its heritage and vintage yacht designs, which recall a bygone era of salt, wood and wind.

Les Voiles de St. Tropez (27th September – 5th October)

Yacht Races | Les Voiles de St. Tropez

The laidback Voiles de St. Tropez comprises 300 or so classically designed vessels © Arnaud Lesné/Flickr


Celebrating its 15th anniversary this autumn, Les Voiles de St. Tropez is returning to the famous resort on the Côte d’Azur. Typical of the jet-set clientele St. Tropez attracts, the regatta is a hub for the rock stars of the sailing world – those who arrive by helicopter, board their fully crewed super yachts, and then fly out again after the race is over. The 300 or so vessels are classically designed, with a few sea giants bringing extra glamour to the mix. As a complement to the beauty and wealth of St. Tropez, the marina’s temporary collection draws hosts of international tourists and sailors alike.

Volvo Ocean Race (Beginning 4th October)

Yacht Races | Volvo Ocean Race

The Volvo Ocean Race covers a staggering 38,739 miles of ocean, and lasts for over nine months © Ainhoa Sanchez/Volvo Ocean Race


After three years, the biggest round-the-world sailing race is at last returning this season. The longest sporting event in the world, the Volvo Ocean Race covers a staggering 38,739 nautical miles. Seven international teams equipped with state-of-the-art racing yachts sail across the world’s surface in just over nine months. The race kicks off in Alicante on October 4th before stopping off in locations as diverse as Cape Town, Auckland and Lisbon; the finale will take place in Gothenburg in late June 2015. The giant course can be tracked online, with small in-port yacht races scheduled at each international stop-off to cater to diehard fans. 

Rolex Sydney-Hobart Yacht Race (26th December)

Yacht Races | Sydney Hobart Yacht Race

The Sydney Hobart Yacht Race is among the most popular regattas today © Carlo Borlenghi


Celebrating its 70th anniversary this year, the Sydney-Hobart race features a mix of novices and experts alike. Waving goodbye to hundreds of thousands of spectators, the varied collection of vessels starts its challenging 628 nautical mile course in Sydney before finishing in Hobart. Historically the course has experienced tragedy due to freak storms, but the foolhardy sailing spirit has ensured it remains one of the most popular regattas today.

Words by Lance van Dijk

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