Don't miss any of the action from the Round the Island Race 2021 with this spectator's guide. We outline the various ways you can keep up to date with the race from shoreside or from home

The Round the Island Race is one of the most popular sailing races in the world, regularly seeing thousands of boats taking part. Not only that, but it is one of the few occasions in sport that manages to bring such a diverse range of entrants together to compete with one another.

This year the Round the Island race celebrates its 90th anniversary. What began as a race for 25 starters in 1931 has grown and grown to a peak of over 1,800 competitors. For many sailors, the Round the Island Race is a once-a year, not-to-be-missed jolly on a summer’s day. For others it is a battle of wits over a complex course, involving changing currents, unpredictable breezes and idiosyncratic tides.

Many competing will be big names in the sport with Olympians and offshore legends regularly taking part. As such, the Round the Island Race does represent something of a unique days sailing, offering the chance to directly test yourself against sailing heroes.

As with much of the sporting calendar in 2020, the Round the Island Race was initially postponed until September 2020 and eventually cancelled altogether when it became clear the even could not be run in a Covid-19 rules compliant fashion.

As such the Round the Island Race 2021 will mark a return for the race after a year’s gap. With international travel still restricted and Covid-19 still an issue, it is not likely to be the record breaking year that might have been hoped for a return after a fallow year, but there are still plenty of entries already to make this a celebratory start of the UK’s sailing season proper.

When does the Round the Island Race start?

With so many boats taking part it would be all but impossible to get everyone underway in one go. As such the Round the Island Race competitors are split into fleets of vessels with similar performance levels.

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The fastest boats go first to avoid the possibility of the whole fleet converging on one section of the course at the same time. This year the first start will be at 06:30 BST.

Round the Island Race 2021 start order:

Start time: 0630 (BST)
Open 60
IRC Group 0 (one division)
IRC Group 1 (up to four divisions) * None
Class40
Clipper Yachts (Clipper 68, Clipper 70 and Clipper 40 Class Yachts)

Start time: 0640
Multihulls Grand Prix and MOCRA Racing (LOA 9.15m and over)
Multihulls Grand Prix and MOCRA Racing (LOA under 9.15m)
Multihulls Bridgedeck Catamaran Cruiser (LOA 9.15m and over)
Multihulls Bridgedeck Catamaran Cruiser (LOA under 9.15m)
Diam 24
Gaffers Division 1 – LWL of 28ft and above
Gaffers Division 2 – LWL of 23ft and above but below 28ft
Gaffers Division 3 – LWL of less than 23ft

Start time: 0650
Sportsboat
HP30
J/70
Sunsail 41.0
Sunsail F40

Start time: 0700
ISC Rating System Group 4 (up to four divisions) None

Start time: 0710
IRC Group 2 (up to four divisions)
J/80
J/88

Start time: 0720
IRC Group 3 (up to four divisions)

Start time: 0730
ISC Rating System Group 5 (up to four divisions)
Nicholson 32

Start time: 0740
ISC Rating System Group 6 (up to four divisions)
Classic Racing Yachts racing under ISCRS (LOA 9.6m and over)
Classic Racing Yachts racing under ISCRS (LOA under 9.6m)
Modern Classic Racing Yachts racing under IRC (LOA of 30ft and over)

Start time: 0750
ISC Rating System Group 7 (up to four divisions)
Folkboat

Start time: 0800
ISC Rating System Group 8 (up to four divisions)

On the Isle of Wight? Watch from ashore…

As the excitement builds you will want a fantastic vantage point to watch the action. The table below outlines the best viewing points at each stage of the race along with directions of how to get to them. Prepare yourself to race around the island yourself by road or find a spot and stick to it, it’s up to you!

Cowes (Start) 0630 – 0910 Via Ward Avenue, Baring Road & Castle Hill to the Parade and the Green either side of the Royal Yacht Squadron.
Sconce Point 0900 – 1130 From Yarmouth, drive towards Freshwater. Turn right after 1/2 mile and follow signs to Fort Victoria.
The Needles 0930 – 1200 From Freshwater or Totland follow signs to the Needles Car Park. Park and walk up West High Down to Needles Battery. Best view to south of Coast Guard Station.
Chilton Chine 1015 – 1330 Situated on the cliffs near Brighstone is Chilton Chine (accessible from the Military Road). It has a terrific view of the boats as they sail by.
St Catherine’s Point 1100 – 1500 From Freshwater, Rookley or Ventnor go to Niton. Take loop road to Buddle Inn. Park and walk down cliffs by lighthouse.
Ventnor 1115 – 1530 Park on Cliff at West End of Esplanade.
Bonchurch 1130 – 1600 Take lane down to sea opposite Bonchurch pond. Take left turn and park in car park at bottom, which is best view.
Culver Down 1200 – 1730 From Brading, take Bembridge road. After 1 mile, turn right and follow sign for Culver (on a bend, and lane hairpins up!)
Ryde Pier 1300 – 1900 From Ryde Esplanade, drive up pier and park at end. Parking for 1 hour.
Cowes (Finish) 1030 – 2200 Via Ward Ave., Baring Road & Castle Hill to the Parade and the Green either side of the Royal Yacht Squadron.

Alternatively you can stay in the Race Village, located on the Parade in Cowes, where there will be live entertainment, food and drink, and the chance to chat with race sponsors Helly Hansen, Raymarine and the Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust.

But if you’re not lucky enough to be there in person when the starting cannon fires, don’t worry – there are plenty of ways to follow the race, no matter where you are.

Online coverage

There are a selection of ways to follow on the official Round the Island Race website, including regular news updates and GPS tracking.

Social media

You’ll also be able to follow the event on Twitter using the hashtag #raceforall for race updates and via the official Facebook page. The best photos from the day can also be found on the official Round the Island Race Instagram page.


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