Read our race report and essential tips for planning your own Round the Island race.
Once again Britain’s premier yacht racing event tagged, the “race for all” lived up to its name. The 85th edition of the race (which started in 1931) saw 1533 entries and 994 boats finish the 50 mile course around the Isle of Wight.
Strong winds on the south side of the island saw a few boats getting into trouble, with one sinking and numerous sails written off. However, testament to the skills of nearly one thousand yachts and their crew, the rest soldiered on to complete the course by the 10:30pm time limit.
The Round the Island Race is the 4th largest annual sporting event in the UK, by participation, with over 16,000 people taking part. Only the London Marathon and the North & South Great Runs have higher attendance.
This year White Dot Sailing helped “Team Xstream” aboard an X-Yachts Xc42 to a very creditable 2nd in class, with the majority of the crew having never raced before, and a few never having sailed before! A quick training day on the way to Cowes, from Lymington on the Friday in 25kts of breeze soon shook out the cobwebs and focused the crew.
The race itself proved to be 8hrs of tight racing - tacking up the western Solent with hundreds of other boats weaving their own way towards the Needles. Long reaches round the back of the island had the boat surfing down waves, our highest speed being 12.5kts (with a reefed main). A long beat back into the Solent meant we had to time our decision to tack back towards the line, a starboard tack made us the stand on vessel. One more tack back towards the line after running out of water by East Cowes and we were over the (correct) finish.
Preparation for the race is key, and it’s where you can improve your chances of a safe and successful rounding the most. Preparing the yacht with a thorough maintenance check both aloft and below is essential, whilst making sure the boat meets the necessary safety requirements laid out in the Notice of Race and Sailing Instructions. But don’t forget crew preparation too, a training day can help the crew to gel and enjoy the main event even more.
Know the weather forecast for the run up to the race, keep monitoring this to pick up trends and changes as you get closer to the race. Don’t forget to check the weather on the morning of the race, it may have changed overnight. Make sure you know the course, where you should be rounding marks and where you should be keeping clear. It sounds obvious but know your start time, give yourself plenty of time to arrive at the start, making sure you keep clear of the line until it’s your fleets’ turn. This is often the most nerve racking part for the first timer, but remember – clear air will give you better boat speed, so if you do hang back at the start you can quickly make up time with fast boat speed in open space.
Make sure you understand the basics of the racing rules, this will become important straight off the line when, in most years the first leg to The Needles is an upwind leg. It’s handy knowing who has right of way with hundreds of boats in crossing all the way out of the Solent. If in doubt, steer clear – you may lose a few seconds but you’ll still have a chance to make it up later.
Once you started you’ll want to finish, with so many boats starting the race – they’ve all got to finish somewhere. With a split finish, make sure you know which line you are finishing on according to the Sailing Instructions. Look down on the results each year and you will find a handful of boats completing the course but with no official place – they have finished on the wrong line.
Finally, enjoy the party in Cowes! With thousands of sailors spinning tales of nautical adventures from the race, they all need to wet their whistle when they come ashore. With live bands, plenty of food and drink it’s an unmissable atmosphere on the island. Make sure you book a berth at the beginning of the year to avoid disappointment.