As the Race Management Team at the Island Sailing Club in Cowes commences the countdown to the start of the 80th Anniversary Round the Island Race on Saturday 25th June, boats have already started arriving in Cowes, such is the excitement surrounding this record-breaking yacht race.
This epic event, dubbed ‘Britain’s favourite yacht race’ has attracted a record number of entries this year, now standing at a phenomenal 1,908 since entries closed last Saturday.
Rod Nicholls, Commodore of the Island Sailing Club, reflects the mood of everyone involved in this year’s Race, saying, “We’re all very excited at the prospect of welcoming a record fleet on the Royal Yacht Squadron line in Cowes early on Saturday morning. We’re hoping for good sailing conditions to help get everyone away on time and safely round the Island.”
The first start is at 0600 when the gun will be fired by TV personality Denise van Outen to commence a series of class starts lasting one hour 40 minutes that sees eleven different classes of boat set off on their epic one-day racing adventure.
The first finisher, taking line honours, but not necessarily winning the famous Gold Roman Bowl, is expected to cross the finish line back in Cowes at around 0930 after completing the 50 nautical mile westabout course. Lionel Lemonchois, a former winner of the Route du Rhum in 2006 and 2010, could be the first skipper celebrating. He is racing in this year’s J.P. Morgan Asset Management Round the Island Race on the 50ft Trimaran Prince de Bretagne. Another of Lionel’s claims to racing fame is as part of the Groupama 3 team that won the 2010 Jules Verne Trophy with Franck Cammas at the helm, racing around the globe in 48 days 7 hours 44 minutes 52 seconds.
A Race for all
After the excitement of congratulating the crew taking line honours, the team at the Island Sailing Club will be finishing boats throughout the day right up until 10pm, the time that every boat needs to have completed the Race in order to qualify for a result.
This Race is a great opportunity to watch world-renowned sailors racing against families and first timers. Although the majority of the fleet will take many hours to complete the Race, the course records stand at 3hrs 53mins 05secs for a monohull boat, set by Mike Slade on ICAP Leopard in 2008, and 3hrs 08mins 29secs for a multihull boat, set by Francis Joyon in 2001.
One of the famous names to look out for on Saturday is Ben Ainslie, triple Olympic Gold medallist, who is setting out with a steely determination to win this year and add to his gold and silverware collection. Ben is being joined on board the Ker 40 Keronimo by ace navigator Mike Broughton and Trimmer Mark Campbell-James amongst others. The ex-World Cup Rugby player Will Greenwood has also signed on as crew and will be lending a hand to this high profile team.
JP54 is the straightforward name given to a top-of-the-range fast cruiser-racer designed, and skippered in this year’s Race, by Jean-Pierre Dick. He has won the 2010-2011 and the 2007-2008 Barcelona World Race as well as wearing the winner’s garland at the end of the Transat Jacques Vabre in 2005.
Commenting on his entry into this 80th Anniversary Race, Jean-Pierre Dick said, “I have always really wanted to take part in this very fine event, which is certainly one of the best English yachting races. I will be discovering the Round the Island Race for the first time and I am really looking forward to taking part in this sailing festival. I got a lot of pleasure out of sailing in the Tour de Belle-Ile last May. So I am starting the cruiser racing exercise all over again, since it is particularly suited to the JP54. She is comfortable and fast. It will be simply an enjoyable moment with a crew of friends. Of course, our goal is to sail as fast as possible while enjoying the wonderful landscapes around the Isle of Wight, particularly the huge limestone cliffs. It’s a magical island!”
Sir Keith Mills will be joined on board the TP52 Team Origin by double Olympic Gold medallist Iain Percy and Olympic Gold medallist Andrew ‘Bart’ Simpson whilst one of the world’s most famous sailors, Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, will be aboard a Clipper 68 for the circumnavigation of the Isle of Wight. Sir Robin was the first person to sail single-handed and non-stop around the world in 1969.
The fairer sex is also well represented with some superb sailing talent in action. Two of the three Women’s Match Racing Champions, Kate and Lucy Macgregor, are racing in Laser SB3s along with Hannah Mills who sails with Saskia Clark in the 470 class. They have all qualified for the pre-Olympics test event in Weymouth this August.
Helena Lucas, the 2.4m Paralympic sailor, is skippering a J109 as part of Team Volvo. Paul Goodison, Laser Olympic Gold medallist and 470 sailor Saskia Clark are also on a J109 but they’re joined by sailing novices Denise van Outen and her friend, actor Chris Parker. Finally, steering another of the Team Volvo boats is Nick Dempsey, also on a J109 and not in his usual comfort zone! Nick is the Olympic RSX windsurf Bronze medallist and former World Champion, selected for Team GBR at the pre-Olympic test event in Weymouth.
Teenage solo sailing stars Jessica Watson and Michael Perham are teaming up to race together for the first time on a Bavaria 37 Cold Play.
Gipsy Moth IV, the historic yacht that was the home of Sir Francis Chichester when he sailed single-handedly around the world in 1966-67, is to be crewed by young sailors from UKSA.
Dame Ellen MacArthur is sailing on one of six Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust boats competing this year with young people in recovery from cancer, leukaemia and other illnesses. The Trust is the official charity of the Race in 2011 and 2012 and we wish them all well.
Whether they complete the Race in the allotted time or not, every single entrant in this year’s historic Race will be awarded a commemorative 80th Anniversary tankard.
Don’t forget to make your donation to the Race Charity the Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust. It’s really simple to do. Just go to http://buyamile.ellenmacarthurtrust.org/ and select a boat and crew member who you would like to support and buy a virtual mile of the Race.