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’round they go

Big boats, small boats, fast boats, slow boats, old boats, new boats, pro sailors, and families on their only racing jaunt of the season, The Round the Island Race. One hull, two, and even a few trimarans all headed off on what is Britain’s biggest sailing race of the year.

Throw in the Solent and a decent breeze and what do you have? Of course, it is the Isle of Wight Round the Island run by the Island Sailing Club.

Start and finish at Cowes, the UK’s yachting Mecca, and leave the big lump of chalk to port all the way round. The first corner is The Needles and be careful the boiler from the wreck of the Varvassi is still there and has been accurately located in past races by the likes of Mike Slade’s  Longabarda and TV’s Barracuda of Tarrant.

Ironically, the late great yachting scribe Bob Fisher on board on both occasions,  along the bottom (sorry – south) of the island past St Catherine’s Point with wind and tide decisions to be made then the turn at Bembridge and home with some of the slower boats, at times taking a seeming age to complete the course. This year the slowest IRC boats took a little over 10 hours to complete the course which was more than double the time of the line honors boat. Thank goodness for handicaps/ratings.

This year many of the bigger boats were elsewhere, the TP52s were off on their own regatta somewhere way south of the UK for example.

It was a day for the faster boats with the GP42 Dark ‘N’ Stormy (GBR 750R) with former Olympian Ian Walker on tactics and Mark Chisnell navigating holding off Khumbu (GBR 1542) by a minute & 3 seconds actual time to secure line honors and more importantly correcting out at one minute and 20 seconds faster to pick up the Gold Roman Bowl in this, the 85th running of the Round the Island Race. With an elapsed time of 4 hours and 54 minutes for the winner, these were slim margins of victory indeed.

In spite of the breezy conditions, the triple, which would have included the course record was never really in doubt. This was set by Mike Slade’s ICAP Leopard in 2013 at 3 hours 43 minutes, over an hour quicker. This was in fact the 5th time Slade’s boats had dropped the time for the Round the Island. It kind of shows there is no real substitute for waterline length.

With over a thousand yachts in over 80 divisions and, according to the event website, over 6,000 competitors (easily well over 1,000 boats) there was quite a long prize list. (Ed: From the results list there appeared to be 1479 starters.) The list of prize winners ran to over 6 pages on the official results list! This added to, what was for many, a very long day with the first start being at 0800 and not all boats ‘live’ in Cowes and had to motor quite a distance just to get to the start line – crack of dawn stuff for many.

OK, so it’s not the Olympics but it probably provides a more visual promotion of our sport as is certainly far more accessible to the average sailor or the family who don’t normally race and proves that nobody can deny just how popular sailing in the United Kingdom. And as a spectacle? Well, it is kind of hard to beat with perhaps only the Barcolana topping it. I am, as ever though open to correction.

Alistair Skinner aka Shanghai Sailor