Building south-westerly winds will make it a bumpy ride for the 1,908 yachts racing round the Isle of Wight tomorrow, but small yachts may be favoured

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Tomorrow’s 80th anniversary Round the Island Race promises blustery and boisterous racing, crews are to be told at this evening’s briefing. Early forecasts of sun and light winds have been blown away by the approach of a low pressure system that will bring winds of 17-23 knots and some drizzle, with south-westerly winds increasing throughout the day tomorrow.

The first start for the 50-mile race round the Isle of Wight, which is sponsored by JP Morgan Asset Management, will be 0600. Once the Open 60 and IRC group 0 fleets get away, start times continue until 0740 to take as much advantage as possible of the ebb tide.

According to Libby Greenhalgh, weather forecaster for organisers the Island Sailing Club, predicts a bumpy downwind ride round the south of the island.

“We are expecting a building breeze picking up to 20-25 knots at the back of the island. It’s likely to be from the south-west so there will be nice big waves off The Needles and it will definitely be oilies on,” she says.

“It will be overcast or drizzly to start with, with the skies clearing later in the day. When that happens we expect a thermal enhancement that might add 4-5 knots of wind.”

The increase in wind with the clearing away of the front later in the day is liable to favour the smaller boats in the fleet. Small boats often do well in the race under handicap. Jeremy Rogers’s Contessa 26 Rosina is a two-times winner, and last year Bryan Appleyard’s Folkboat took the Island Sailing Club’s Gold Roman Bowl.

This year sees a record entry of 1,908 boats, making the race the UK’s biggest ever yacht race by a large margin. Of these some 101 yachts are being sailed by family crews.

Some of the well-known sailors taking part include Ellen MacArthur, racing with a group of children in recovery from cancer, leukaemia and other illness, Olympic superstar Ben Ainslie and Mike Perham and Jessica Watson, the teenage sailors who have consecutively held the record for the youngest person to sail alone round the world and are doing this mini circumnavigation together.