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Round the Island Race

2015 sees incredible racing conditions for Round The Island

Isle Of Wight - Round the Island Race

Round the Island is a very popular event in the UK sailing calendar.  It usually takes place in the last couple of weeks of June each year depending on the tides, with over 1,500 boats competing in various different classes from gigantic sailing boats to small (excluding dinghies and hobby cats).  The race begins just off Cowes, Isle of Wight and as the name of the race suggests, you need to navigate and sail right around the Isle Of Wight, around 60 miles.  The race starts early in the morning, usually downtide and takes the sailing boats anything from 6 to 11 hours depending on a number of factors, primarily wind speed! From approximately 7 am, most sailors can be sure that the west flowing ebb will be established to accelerate them down to the Needles.

In 2015 the conditions were perfect in nearly every respect, an easterly strong but not gale force wind, magnificent blue skies and a reasonably comfortable sea state.  Most years the Isle of Wight race will give sailors a complete and challenging set of sailing types and 2015 was no exception.  Tacking from Cowes to the needles.  Flying the spinnaker and for some jibing from the Needles to Ventnor.  We chose to jibe with a little bit of goosing from the Needles to Ventnor.  Then from Ventnor and with the wind behind we flew the kite – up with the spinnaker! We made some good head way during this leg of our trip and over-took quite few boats that were not flying their kite.  Finally we tacked back to the finish line with the tide and wind against us, the slowest part of the race for all. 

The entire race was dry (i.e., not a drop of alcohol) with just a few cans of beer kept cool in the fridge for the finish line, unsurprisingly, as with so many boats we certainly needed to keep our wits about us as we ducked other boats on many occasions.

The Round the Island Race is a photographers dream when the weather is right! With 1,584 sailing boats (2015) and many of those with spinnakers flying, the magnificent colourful seascapes of the boats on the water made for some great photos.  There are ample photo opportunities during the whole race, so if you are a keen photographer, don’t miss a trick.

The finish line is split into two halves for different classes, either going north of the committee boat or south of the committee boat.  It is important to get the correct line otherwise you will get disqualified right at the finish.  This year we made a fatal mistake (even without the beer!) and thought we were in the blue flag class, but realised some time after finishing the race that we in fact had a turquoise flag and our boat got a ‘Did Not Finish’! I’m sure we won’t make the same mistake again. 

Round the Island - A few race facts

  • One of the largest sports participation events in UK – Often claimed to be the 4th largest.
  • The race has attracted a number of Olympic sailors.  This includes gold medallist Ben Ainslie and Olympic gold medallist Paul Goodison. 
  • The first Round the Island Race was in 1931 with just 25 boats.
  • Between the 1950’s and 1980’s entry numbers steadily increased, from 105 in to 1,312 in the mid 1980s.  2015 saw 1,584 competitors (boats).
  • The ex Prime Minister Sir Edward Heath was a very keen sailor.  He won the Round the Island Race four times, 3 of those races in the early 70’s
  • 2015 - Adestra sailed across the wrong finish line and was DQ'd

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