The Round the Island Race is not just a compelling spectacle, but is a racetrack with wind shadows, tidal eddies, rocks, wrecks and sandbanks to contend with, writes Peter Bruce
In or out?
If in doubt, go out! Unless you can make it directly to Bembridge, my strong advice is to avoid the bay, due to the lighter winds. The high ground on each side of the Bay, Nansen Hill at Dunnose (221m) on the south side and Culver Cliff with its day mark on top at the north end do a good job in reducing the wind in the bay itself.
Also westerly winds are slowed by the friction of the land and hills, prior to making it over the town of Shanklin. It is often shortly after Dunnose, that those boats going offshore and finding the new seabreeze have made big gains.
Always take a free ride
Usually, there is a reach on one of the legs of the Round the Island Race. In windy conditions, there is almost always a free ride to be had on the quarter wave of a larger yacht. The gain can be huge in windy conditions for the smaller yacht and it is well worth sailing aggressively to manoeuvre to gain the free tow. It is best to get in close, i.e. on the first of the quarter waves.
In winds from the west or southwest, beware going too close to Bembridge Ledge. The wind shadow from Culver Cliff is significant, even in strong gradient winds. By just tracking a little further our to sea, there are big gains to be made when the wind is from west. In easterly winds, the area can also experience light patches as the wind detaches from the sea to make it over the top of Culver Cliff.
Go near to No Man’s Land Fort
Sailing against a foul tide, always keep away from the middle of the gap, when heading between the Forts. The tide is considerably stronger midway between and it is best to route a little to the south of the rhumb line to No Man’s Land Fort (southern most Fort) when approaching from the SE, then curve north at the last minute, to pass the Fort close to port.
Once through the shadow created by the structure, head off to the west for a mile to make the most of the tidal shadow to the east of Ryde Sands. The strong tide that flows between the Forts (gap one mile), extends in the shape of a tongue for about two miles in the direction of Dean Elbow buoy. The Island Sailing Club, as a safety measure, recommends staying away from the middle of the gap, to keep away from shipping.
The sand bank with the steepest sides
When sailing against the tide it is usually worth routing south of track, across Mother Bank and Peel Bank in the shallower water and less tide. Ryde Sands is a definite hazard for the unwary and right on route to the finish. There is not normally enough water to sail over it.
Shaped by the strong tides, the northern side of the bank is steep to so beware if resorting to an echo sounder to feel your way in (the depth goes from around 13m to 2m in about two boat lengths in places). Rather than just use an echo sounder, use the useful limiting line between No Man’s Land Fort and SW Mining Ground.
In a southeasterly wind, right hand shifts remaining local to the Ryde area can be experienced on the south side of the eastern Solent. Winds from the same direction create a stronger wind band on the northern side, due to the coastal convergence as the wind sweeps towards Lee-on-Solent.
Whilst in a southwesterly, the breeze is less close into the Island from Ryde to Osborne Bay. The hills inland reduce the wind, as well as the trees along the coast, that do a great job at creating friction to slow the breeze.