Coastguard and RNLI stretched to handle 75 incidents during the Round the Island Race

For the 1,303 crews who completed the 50-mile JP Morgan Asset Management Round the Island Race on Saturday it was a quite an achievement in windy, murky and at times quite rough conditions. But it’s also quite legitimate to ask whether some crews and yachts could perhaps be a bit better prepared for a race that some years gives quite tough offshore conditions.

This year, those conditions were well forecast. And they weren’t really that severe, at least not in the overall scheme of things. According to Yarmouth lifeboat crew, the top gusts were 30 knots and there were seas of ‘2-3m’.

Yet the statistics tell of a race that stretched rescue services to the full. Solent Coastguard handled some 75 distress calls. Audrey Pedersen, Coastguard watch assistant from C Watch, on duty all day on Saturday, told me earlier: “I’ve never known that many incidents during a day in my ten years here.”

The Coastguard were sometimes handling “four, five or six incidents at a time,” she added. “I started counting PanPans and after 22 I lost track of it. It was just non-stop.”

RNLI crews from Yarmouth, Lymington, Bembridge and Calshot assisted with 23 different emergencies, including four dismastings, three broken rudders, three head injuries (one man was airlifted to hospital after being hit by a spinnaker pole) and at least two man overboards.

I also talked to Chris Thomas, sailing secretary of the Island Sailing Club. I wanted to know if the club had a comment on crews’ preparedness for the forecast weather.

“I think I’ll probably not comment,” he replied. “It is down to skippers themselves. They get the weather briefing and there’s lots of information in that for people to make their best judgements.”

No arguing with that at all. It’s up to skippers to decide to race and to carry on racing.

Still, even accepting that race conditions were very unpleasant, I do wonder if the Round the Island Race this year and perhaps in future too, wasn’t a victim of its own successful image as a fantastic day out for the family. On a moderately windy day it can also be quite a rough day offshore.