Over 15,000 people took part in the 2015 J.P Morgan Asset Management Round the Island Race in a fleet of 1,584 entries. By the end of the day there had been 104 retirements and 11 OCS/DSQs
As famous for its wide variety of boats as it is for the number of entries, this year’s Round the Island Race also saw foiling come into play. So who stood out when it came to the silverware?
In percentage terms it was clear that the 84th edition of the race had been spectacular success and it was easy to see why. Sunshine all day and a modest westerly breeze that just topped 20 knots on the windiest part of the course at St Catherine’s Point provided perfect conditions for the bulk of the fleet.
Only the big boats it seemed could have anything to complain about as the race proved to be a small boat affair once again, but there was no hint of disappointment even here.
As Mike Slade and his professional crew came ashore after taking line honours in the monohull class but failing to beat the course record of 3hr 43min 50sec set by themselves in 2013, the talk was simply of a spectacular day to race around the island.
As part of the TV commentary team I had watched and reported on each of the starts from our RIB which was fascinating in itself to see how the change in tide and wind direction during the 1hr 40min start sequence altered the bias in the line and the early fortunes of the crews. But it was the early finishers that presented one of the most thought provoking moments of the race.
First to finish was the MOD70 Concise 10 skippered by Ned Collier-Wakefield that completed the course in 3hr 30min 24sec. An impressive performance, but 38min off the course record for multihulls set by Ben Ainslie in 2013.
Next to finish was one of the four GC32 foiling cats, Sultanate of Oman, helmed by Paul Campbell-James, which was just 20 minutes slower than a trimaran over double the cat’s length. Campbell-James was standing in for Leigh McMillan who had damaged his hand during the GC32 class racing earlier in the week. Given his day job as helmsman for Ben Ainslie Racing, Campbell-James has to be one of the UK’s most experienced foiling cat sailors having spent most weeks since last Autumn sailing and developing the British team’s new AC weaponry. Little surprise perhaps that he led the field.
In just six minutes all three additional GC32s had crossed the line. There was nothing behind them, at least not for 40 minutes and that’s where the penny dropped.
As the 100ft LOA supermaxi Leopard beat her way to the finish it was impossible not to be struck with how big a gap there was between the foiling 32footers and one of the world’s fastest monohulls. Among the many examples of how potent foiling machines are, this was another glaring example of why foiling is currently such a big deal.
But aside from the glamorous end of the racing there were some equally impressive performances.
Giovanni Belgrano and his crew aboard Whooper took the Gold Roman Bowl for winning IRC overall. This is the second time that Belgrano has taken the top slot in his 1939 Laurent Giles designed 38 footer, his previous victory was in 2004.
Second, just two minutes adrift on corrected time, was last year’s overall winner, Ed Donald’s Nordic Folkboat Madelaine while third overall went to Jo Richards’ H-Boat Woof.
But it wasn’t just older or smaller boats that took the best silverware.
Sir Keith Mills’ brand new Ker 40+ Invictus won IRC Group 0, a particularly impressive performance given that the boat that was built in China was only launched a week earlier. According to Mills talking three days before the race, she had been was taking on water at an alarming rate during their first sea trials. Clearly they had now got her sorted.
Just behind was Tony Langley’s TP52 Gladiator in second with Steward Whitehead and Jeff Blue’s Carkeek 40 Mk2 Rebellion third.
Rebellion is another grand prix 40 footer that arrived in the UK earlier this year and further evidence of a growing interest in this size and type.
In the ISC Rating System fleet, Jeremy Vines’ Dufour 34 Pickle was overall winner among the 680 entries. William Ball’s Grand Soleil 34.3 Gazelle was second, while one of the lowest-rated boats in the race, Brain Haugh’s 1958 East Anglian 28 Cherete finished third, just three seconds behind Gazelle on corrected time.