A total of 1,682 boats will be competing in this weekend's Round the Island Race
Entries have now closed for the world’s largest yacht race of its kind – the classic Round the Island Race, which takes competitors westwards round the Isle of Wight on Saturday 26 June. The Island Sailing Club reports numbers are up by 100 on last year with a total 1,682 boats participating.
The first start at 6am, from the Royal Yacht Squadron line at Cowes, unleashes the power of the giant 110ft Grand Prix multihulls – quite at home skimming the Solent at 28 knots – and here the French greyhounds “Idec” and “Orange II” are in contention. “Idec”, skipper Francis Joyon, earlier this year broke the record for sailing solo round the world by an amazing 20 days. For the RTI Francis will be bringing a full race crew, predominantly French, but including British Olympic medallist Rodney Pattison who adds local knowledge. Bruno Peyron is a former Jules Verne Trophy winner from 2002, then sailing “Orange I”, He brings his brand-new maxicat “Orange II” to Cowes for the first time. Both boats will be looking to break the multihull record which has stood since 2001 at 3hrs 8mins 29sec. The yachts can be seen moored off Cowes Green on Friday 25 June.
The expanding Laser SB3 fleet is joined this year by Sydney Olympic gold medallists Iain Percy, Ben Ainslie and Shirley Robertson. They go head-to-head in this exciting sportsboat class, sailing for the last time in home waters before heading for Athens. Steve Mitchell, Iain’s crew in the Olympic Star class, also gets to helm for once, pitting his wits against those of his team mate, while Volvo Ocean Race CEO Glenn Bourke cuts a dash in the same class too.
Scratch boat in the monohull fleet is Stephen Fein’s brand-new “Full Pelt X”, a 36-footer rating 1.620 under IRC – higher than Mike Slade’s 90ft “Leopard of London”, the current monohull record holder. To have any chance of winning on handicap, “Full Pelt X” would have to get round in less than half the time of “Rosina of Beaulieu”.
Winner of the Gold Roman Bowl for the past two years, the Rogers family – with brothers Simon, Kit and David – will again compete in their Contessa 26 “Rosina of Beaulieu”, to see if they can be the first to win three times consecutively in the same boat. This is despite the fact that skipper Simon’s wife is due to give birth on race day! “Rosina of Beaulieu” will be given a good run for her money by previous Gold Roman Bowl winners Edward Donald in the Folkboat “Celia Mary” and Martyn Wheatley’s H-Boat “Cloud Nine”.
Sir Edward Heath is the only four-time winner of the Gold Roman Bowl, sailing a succession of different “Morning Clouds” in 1971, 1972, 1973 and 1980.
Having enjoyed the 2003 event so much, Sir Robin Knox Johnston returns to compete in “Suhaili”, the boat in which he became the first to sail solo, non stop round the world in 1969. The previous year a Southsea greengrocer, Alec Rose, sailed back into Portsmouth and the record books, on completion of his single-handed circumnavigation, stopping twice. His pale blue, 36ft ketch “Lively Lady” is now owned by a Trust which benefits disadvantaged young adults, who will form the crew in the Round the Island Race. “Suhaili” and “Lively Lady” are in the last group to cross the start line at 7.30am.
Many competitors combine the great day out with fundraising for charity. Peter Harrison has loaned his Farr 52 “Chernikeeff” for the day to raise funds for the British Paralympic Sailing Team. The boat will be skippered by Paralympic gold medallist Andy Cassell with Paralympic Sonar sailor Hannah Stodel. They are joined by a crew of seven MPs which has been put together by Richard Ottoway MP.
The ISC will again support the Jubilee Sailing Trust. Lombard Marine Finance, one of the event’s race partners, will be amongst those organising a sponsored sail in aid of the charity.
With over 2,500 members, the Island Sailing Club is one of the largest sailing clubs in the world. This is just as well, as the Round the Island Race keeps 140 members busy, seeing the event runs smoothly afloat and ashore and detailed planning starts annually nine months in advance. All this effort is rewarded by so many keen competitors who return and clearly enjoy the event year after year.