The annual Round the Island Race kicks-off this Saturday with Maiden II attempting to break yet another record...

The Solent’s annual test of nerve gets underway this Saturday, 22 June, when over 1,600 yachts and some 13,000 sailors line up to take part in one of the world’s largest yacht races – The Round the Island Race 2002.

Maiden II, fresh from breaking the 24-hour distance record, will be one of the first boats to cross the start line for the Round the Island race. Tracy Edwards and her 13-strong crew aboard Maiden II, a 110 ft maxi-catamaran, took the title from Steve Fossett’s Playstation, in a gruelling attempt in the North Atlantic on Thursday 13 June.

Edwards and her crew have now set their sights on the Round the Island Race course record, currently held by Francis Joyon?s trimaran, Dexia Eure et Loir, which was co-skippered by Rodney Pattisson in 2001 to finish the race in 3hr 8min 29 sec.

The highly regarded Round the Island Race, often dubbed the London Marathon of yachting, has a 50 nautical mile course sailed anti-clockwise around the Isle of Wight. With staggered starts from 0830 onwards, the fleet, comprising thousands of yachtsmen of diverse experience, will set sail from the Royal Yacht Squadron starting line, heading westwards towards The Needles to face the tidal influences in the Solent and around the shores of the Island.

Defending their 2001 race title, are the overall winners of last year’s event, owner Peter Morton and co-entrant Adam Gosling aboard Mandrake who completed the circumnavigation in an impressive 5 hours and 45 seconds to win one of the most desirable prizes in yachting – The Gold Roman Bowl. The 22ft H-Boat ?Cloud Nine? owned and skippered by Martyn Wheatley of Lymington, who clinched the highly coveted Gold Roman Bowl in 2000, will also be returning for another shot at the race title.

The race, organised by the Island Sailing Club, is a highlight of the sailing calendar but also attracts thousands of spectators. At one end of the spectrum are the grand prix hi-tech racing yachts crewed by professional yachtsmen of international standing. At the other end are the many small cruisers, often crewed by families and friends, for whom this is their only race of the year. Yachting Monthly recognises this fact by offering the YM Family Trophy to the fastest family-crewed boat to cross the finish line. The club sailor has an equal opportunity to race against sailing celebrities such as Britain’s America’s Cup and Olympic sailing elite.