Last weekend the Isle of Wight hosted as always, the fourth largest sporting event in the UK, the Round Island Race. It involves pretty much what it says on the box, 1,900 sailing boats and 16,000 sailors circumnavigating the Island.
The race is organised by the Island Sailing Club based in Cowes, its 50 nautical miles long, starting in Cowes and heading
west towards the needles, round St Catherines point and Bembridge Ledge back round through the Solent to Cowes.
The race started in 1931, so this year was its 80th anniversary, although apparently during the war, due to the ban on private leisure sailing, it was postponed for 6 years.
As the first big sailing regatta of the season Cowes was a buzz with people of all ages ensuring everything was in place to welcome the fellow sailors last week. It was lovely to see the veteran sailors coming over on the Red Funnel ferry on Thursday evening, smartly dressed in their club shirts and blazers to support the event and to catch up with their fellow crew from back in the day.
This year looked set to be an idyllic year with a record numbers of entries, unfortunately however the weather threw everything it had at the sailors; poor visibility with fog, up to 28 knots of wind, quite rough seas at the needles and St Catherines point, kindly finished off with some glorious sunshine to ensure they had all thawed out properly by beer o’clock.
It certainly seemed to put them to the test, my gin and tonic sailing skills definitely wouldn’t have been any use whatsoever. Thankfully I was safely stowed on the Red Jet watching from the sidelines.
Unfortunately this did mean a number of boats had to turn back due to damaged rigs or poorly crew, I think one of Ellen MacArthur’s Trust boats being amongst them. We did see a number of capsized yachts and rescues going on throughout the day.
That aside though, everyone made it safely home with a few bruised egos, worse for wear vessels and many red faces by the end of the day.
The great thing about this race is it’s brilliant for spectators too, the boats come in so close to the shore and it is a spectacular site watching thousands of boats sail past.
Cowes as always, hosted beautifully a fun after race party on Cowes Yacht Haven with a well stoked beer tent and some great bands, we even spotted Ben Ainslie down there much to the delight of my visiting friend!
Some boat spotting... and the start of the sailing 'Season',