The inaugural edition of World Sailing's Offshore World Championship will be held in October 2020 in Valletta, Malta, alongside the Rolex Middle Sea Race.
Announced in 2017, the Offshore Sailing World Championship will be a powerful platform to accelerate the interest and growth of offshore one-design mixed double-handed sailing within the sailing community. It was announced last year, mixed double-handed offshore racing would be added to the programme for the 2024 Paris Olympics.
The 2020 Offshore Sailing World Championship will be organised in collaboration with the Royal Malta Yacht Club and World Sailing.
Originally earmarked to be held in 2019, World Sailing postponed the hosting to 2020 to allow a full qualification system to be developed, allowing ample opportunity for member national authorities to qualify and prepare for the event.
The championship will be a two-person mixed competition (one man, one woman) between nations, featuring 20 boats. Held alongside the Rolex Middle Sea Race, the competitors may be required to sail the full course or a reduced course depending on the weather conditions.
It is designed to cater to the fast-growing double-handed offshore community worldwide. An important goal is to engage countries new to double-handed offshore sailing by providing turnkey equipment ready to use at the event venue as well as boats being available to charter in Europe for training from the summer of 2019.
"The Offshore Sailing World Championship will be pursued by the best mixed crews from all nations and will be recognised as one of the major endurance competitions for two-person offshore sailing," World Sailing president Kim Andersen said.
"World Sailing is continuously looking to provide pathways into the sport and the championship will be gender equal, enabling both men and women to acquire the skillsets needed to perform at the championship and beyond.
"The 2020 championship is the first step for offshore sailors aspiring to compete at the Paris 2024 Olympic Games and we are expecting a stern test for the teams on internationally-renowned offshore racing waters.
"Royal Malta Yacht Club has outstanding experience of hosting major sailing events and we are delighted to be working with them for this important first event."
The Rolex Middle Sea Race is a 606 nautical mile race that starts and finishes in Malta. The route includes the deep azure waters of Sicily and the Strait of Messina, the islands of Pantelleria and Lampedusa, and even features Stromboli's active volcano as a course mark.
This year's event marks the 40th edition of the race.
"The Rolex Middle Sea Race has been a thrill for thousands of sailors since its inception over 50-years-ago," Royal Malta Yacht Club commodore Godwin Zammit said. "The character and challenge of the Maltese waters and efforts of our volunteers and staff continue to make the event attractive.
"We are delighted to partner with World Sailing and hold two prestigious events side by side to help enhance and grow the profile of our sport. We're excited about hosting the first Offshore Sailing World Championship and supporting World Sailing in their efforts."
Further information on the boats that will be used, the qualification system and race format will be announced in due course.