Oman Sail Masirah takes line honours

Oman Sail Masirah has led the fleet back to Cowes in the JPMorgan Asset Management Round the Island Race as well as taking line honours in the Extreme 40 class. It was a nail-biting finish, with a provisional 29 seconds separating the Omani boat from Russell Coutts helming Team Aqua. Pete Cumming, skipper of Oman Sail Masirah said:

“We were behind Team Aqua right up to Yarmouth but once round The Needles it was true champagne sailing. At St Catherine’s we out-gybed Team Aqua and extended our lead to 22 minutes at Bembridge. We thought we might be able to cruise back to Cowes but then the wind started to go light. Once in the Solent it was even lighter and it shut down completely. We could see Team Aqua and Team Origin (Ben Ainslie) trying to short tack out of the tide. We decided to stick in the middle. It was a case of holding your nerve and covering Team Aqua. It’s always good to have a close race but to go from a 22 minute lead down to a 29 second win, that’s really something.”

The winning team comprised Olympic 49er silver medallist Chris Draper on helm, Pete Cumming trimmer with Mark Bulkeley, Olympic Tornado sailor on mainsheet. David “Freddie” Carr and Khamis al Anbouri shared the bow.

Meanwhile, the leading monohulls were back in the eastern Solent. ICAP Leopard (Mike Slade) led from Liara (Tony Todd) followed by Sebastien Josse and Ellen MacArthur on the Open 60 BT. These boats were hugging the mainland shore whilst the TP52s Cutting Edge and John Merricks II favoured the Island side and might just have the advantage on handicap.

“Rebecca will you marry me?” was the message on the spinnaker of Pavlova (Sigma 38) spotted south of the Island. Who is Rebecca and will she say “Yes”? One couple returned from honeymoon early to take part in the race this year. Will the same apply to Pavlova next year?

In the monohull classes, ICAP Leopard led the fleet home.

British supermaxi, ICAP Leopard, owned by Helical Bar PLC Chief Executive Mike Slade, has today taken monohull line honours in the JP Morgan Asset Management Round The Island Race. Finishing the race in an elapsed time of 8 hours and 3 seconds, conditions did not allow ICAP Leopard to challenge the course record that she set in last year’s race of 3 hours, 53 minutes and 5 seconds.
ICAP Leopard’s afterguard called a great race in the testing conditions, using every shift to gain an advantage over the other competitors. The race started in 6-8 knots of wind from the northwest and rose to 10-12 knots, giving the yacht good pace out of The Needles. The breeze then died completely off St Catherine’s Point with the fleet compressing into the foul tide off Sandown Bay.
“There were nervous moments as we dropped to fifth place, only recovering our lead off Gilkicker Point, halfway into The Solent,” said Boat Captain Chris Sherlock shortly after the finish. “Although this wasn’t the fastest race in history the crew worked really hard to get every last bit of power out of the boat and we are thrilled to have got line honours.”
Owner, Mike Slade, commented: “Another year in the Round The Island Race and another cracking race. Obviously we would have preferred more breeze, to give us a chance of breaking our record from last year; but we had a great time and that’s what counts. Every year it staggers me how many people get up at 4am on a Saturday morning in June to take part in this race; what a truly awesome spectacle!”
ICAP Leopard, will now spend the next couple of months chartering in the Solent before taking on her next big challenge, the 2009 Rolex Fastnet Race, which starts from Cowes on 9th August. Following the Fastnet, ICAP Leopard will travel Down Under to compete in the Rolex Sydney Hobart Race starting on 26th December. This will be Mike Slade’s fourth attempt at the Sydney Hobart Race and after finishing a close second in 2007, he will be aiming to go one better this time and be the first ever British boat to secure a line honours win. If all goes to plan ICAP Leopard could lay claim to a historic double in the same year.