Transatlantic Race 2025 Welcomes Autopilots, Pioneering Shift in Offshore Sailing

In a groundbreaking move set to redefine offshore racing, the Transatlantic Race 2025 organizers have announced a pivotal amendment to the Notice of Race (NOR): the allowance of autopilots throughout the fleet. This revolutionary change marks a departure from the longstanding tradition that mandated a human hand on the helm at all times during fully crewed American offshore racing.

Scheduled to commence on Wednesday, June 18, 2025, the Transatlantic Race, jointly organized by the New York Yacht Club and the Royal Ocean Racing Club, will see participants embarking on a 3,000-mile voyage from Newport, R.I., to Cowes, England. With the inclusion of autopilots, teams, especially in the racer-cruiser division, can now compete safely and effectively with fewer crew members, thus lowering the barriers to entry for aspiring racers.

Dan Litchfield, co-chair for the race, emphasized the decision’s aim to broaden participation, particularly among racer-cruisers, stating, “The main motivation for allowing autopilots is to encourage participation by enabling boats… to compete safely and effectively with fewer team members.”

Autopilot technology has evolved significantly over the years, from rudimentary windvane-controlled systems to sophisticated computer-controlled algorithms capable of adjusting to changing conditions and sea states. While predominantly used in Europe for similar races, the acceptance of autopilots in American offshore racing has been a long time coming.

Steve Cole, racing manager for the Royal Ocean Racing Club, noted the positive impact autopilots have had on races in Europe, stating, “The RORC has found that the introduction of autopilots has helped boats with less crew to take part in our longer distance races.”

This shift towards embracing autopilots aligns with the evolving nature of sailing technology and racing dynamics. Charlie Enright, the 2023 US Sailing Rolex Yachtsman of the Year, underscored the significance of this change, drawing from his experience in The Ocean Race, where autopilots played a crucial role in optimizing performance with minimal crew.

“Allowing autopilots will help increase entries and ensure that boats don’t need bigger crews,” Enright remarked, highlighting the practical benefits of this innovation.

With registration currently open and an early registration discount available until September 1, 2024, the Transatlantic Race 2025 stands poised to usher in a new era of offshore racing, where technology and tradition converge to push the boundaries of what’s possible on the open sea.




Like Newport Buzz? We depend on the generosity of readers like you who support us, to help with our mission to keep you informed and entertained with local, independent news and content. We truly appreciate your trust and support!