Lymington Optimists set new record for sailing around the Isle of Wight

The Lymington Optimist Flotilla had a change from individual competition this weekend, to attempt the first known Optimist circumnavigation of the Isle of Wight for 18 years.

On Saturday 9 July three Optimists helmed by a team of 11 sailors aged between 11 and 14 years old completed the voyage in 11 hours and 11 minutes exactly, smashing the record of 13 hours 55 minutes set by Athens Olympic Medallist Nick Rogers in 1987.

Thanks to the timing of the spring tides and near perfect sailing conditions with a 12-18 mph north easterly breeze and a sunny day, the team who met at Lymington at 0400 and set off from the starting platform at 0508 slightly apprehensive and wondering whether they’d be back before midnight in the event enjoyed a perfect day’s sailing around the scenic Isle of Wight coastline.

At any one time three of the team were sailing, one in each of the three support RIBs ready to transfer, and the remainder taking a brief rest on the Mothership yacht and keeping a supportive eye on the proceedings. All transfers between Optimists and RIBs (practised in two previous rehearsals) were accomplished swiftly in motion wasting no time. There was only one capsize all day when just after rounding the Needles the sailors were met by strong katabatic gusts off the high cliffs. The team were prepared for the Overfalls at St Catherine’s Point, where although the wall of water looked intimidating, in the event it presented no real problem. The Solent was busy and choppy off Cowes on a Saturday afternoon but the sailors, buffered also by their RIBs who moved in close to protect them, were on starboard and ready to call if needed to the crews of the racing yacht fleets. Members of the Royal Lymington Yacht Club race committee greeted the team home just after 4.15 pm, and for their “finale” they sailed in pairs across the line until each sailor had officially crossed the finish.

The event was organised by Optimist Dad David Minors responding to the desire expressed by his twin 14 year old sons Mark and Paul to sail the Channel in Optimists. The IOW challenge was decided upon as an excellent “trial run”. David was supported by other Optimist parents and Royal Lymington Yacht Club Commodore John Bence who championed the project within RLymYC and who on the day skippered his yacht Chatterbox as the navigational HQ and base for resting sailors.

The sailors all live near Lymington where they train regularly. Mark and Paul Minors who attend Priestlands School were joined by schoolmates Gareth Moore (13) and Henry Lloyd Williams (nearly 12); Connie Stock, Misha Bruml and Oliver Porter all aged 12 and pupils at King Edward V1 School in Southampton; Robbie Urwin (12) at Bournemouth School for Boys; Karen Thomas (nearly 12) who lives in Totton; Sam Batten (11) at Brockenhurst Primary School and Liam Garrison (11) at Pilgrims School in Winchester.

In addition to the personal challenge immediately after the announcement of the 2012 London Olympics, the sailors are raising funds for RYA Sailability, the charity which brings great benefit and the pleasure of sailing to a wide range of disabled people.

The Team hope that maybe next year it could just be the English Channel!