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The Balaton Blue Ribbon Regatta: The largest round-the-lake regatta in Europe


It’s no coincidence that the Blue Ribbon Regatta has become the premier event of Lake Balaton and sailing: it is one of the most prestigious events on the continent, looking back on a great and past full of stories.

The Blue Ribbon Regatta has now been held over 50 times, much to the delight of sailing enthusiasts. The race is the largest event held by the Hungarian Yachting Association, and puts the skills, endurance and willpower of participants to the test. During these races, hundreds of sailors compete against each other on the internationally popular ‘Hungarian Sea’ – in other words, Lake Balaton – by completing a full circuit along the Balatonfüred-Balatonkenese-Siófok-Keszthely-Balatonfüred route.

Why Blue? And why Ribbon? When is it held?

While there is no literal ribbon for the boats to tear across at the finish line, back in the day, the fastest sailboat earned the right to adorn its mast with a blue ribbon – hence the name of the regatta. This tradition was brought to Lake Balaton by the Hungária Yacht Klub in 1934, when they first announced the regatta. Since then, the Blue Ribbon Regatta has been held regularly, more recently by the Hungarian Yachting Association.


While the event has been held every year almost without fail since the turn of the millennium, the date is not set in stone: it is customary to always hold the regatta on the July weekend that is closest to a full moon. The race starts at 9 a.m. on Thursday, and the time limit is 48 hours, which is how long competitors have to circumnavigate the lake.

The Blue Ribbon Route

Sailors participating in the Blue Ribbon start the challenge from the port in Balatonfüred. From there, they make their way towards Siófok, the largest town along the southern shore, then cross the Tihany Strait to Keszthely, at the southwestern corner of Lake Balaton. From there, they head northeast again, until they reach Balatonfüred once more. The length of the entire route is 160 kilometres as the crow flies, which is quite a feat in itself – and it is only made more difficult by the shifting weather and environment: stormy winds, lulls, rain, clouds of mosquitos, and the dead of night. Anyone who wants to give it a try should know that while the route has a beauty all its own, completing it is no easy task.

Few interesting titbits about the Blue Ribbon

· The first regatta was held in 1934, after which it was held every two years until 1942. The war put the tradition on hold for a few years, and it was then reinstated in 1947. The challenge has been held annually since 2001.


· The first truly impressive results were posted by the boat named Nemere II, completing the circuit in 10 hours and 40 minutes.


· The Nemere II held that record for 57 years, until it was finally beaten in 2012 by a catamaran made of high-tech materials.


· The Blue Ribbon has been won twice by a female helmsman – both times, the proud winner was Evelyn Kultsár, née Gordon.


· In 1953, the prevailing winds during the regatta were extremely weak, leading to the ‘slowest winner’ title being awarded that year. The boat finishing in first place took 40 hours to complete the course.


· 1991 was an exception in that there were two winners that year: the first to reach the goal was the Giftwerg, with Helmut Birkmayer of Germany at the helm, but he had not taken the prescribed route through the Tihany Strait. Fortunately for him, however, the stipulation was incorrectly stated in the German translation of the regatta regulations. As a result, his boat and the one arriving 20 minutes later were both awarded first place.


· No fewer than 681 boats took part in the 50th anniversary edition of the Blue Ribbon.

How can you apply for the Blue Ribbon?

If you’re in the mood to give the regatta a try yourself, the most important condition is that only boats with a valid boat licence may participate (rented foreign boats may substitute a survey certificate or boat registration documentation). All participating boats must register with the Hungarian Yachting Association, and must also meet the World Sailing regatta requirements. There are generally also some supplementary regulations as well, which can be found on this page.


If you do register for the Blue Ribbon, we wish you successful preparations and a fun regatta. If, on the other hand, you opt to stay on the shore and watch the beautiful flotilla of boats on the sparkling blue expanse of Lake Balaton, then we wish you an excellent viewing experience, and some great weather for lying in the sun.

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