“We’re pulling out. I’ll call you later”. *click*.
Thus ended my fourth Round the Island Race before it had even begun. After last year’s lively adventure the crew of my friend’s boat had become a little cautious about repeating the experience – and the forecast was unpredictable at best.
One minute it was going to be gusting to 50mph, the next it would be a breezy 20mph all the way round. A decision had to be made – and it was, last night.
The upside was that I’d no longer have to get up at 4.30 am to make my way to Hamble. The downside was the gut wrenching disappointment of not going. As I am writing this the phone has just rung and another friend involved in the race told me that they had abandoned at Lymington – the sight of a sinking catamaran and a busy rescue helicopter put them off. Now I feel a little better as I tuck into my big bag of biscuits that were to be my contribution to the day’s sailing.
The Round the Island Race (which starts and ends off Cowes on the Isle of Wight) is a 50 mile circuit involving anything from 1500 to 2000 yachts of just about every class you can imagine.
Both amateurs and professionals take part; the racing elite, the jobbing crews, the first-timers hitching a ride and the corporate giants. They’re all there, desperately trying to avoid each other all the way around. And then there’s what’s commonly known as the most dangerous fleet on the Solent – the Sunsail Fleet. This is comprised mainly of chartered boats skippered by the very nervous.
Speaking for myself, I find the race to be the very definition of hours of inactivity interrupted by moments of terror. The moments of terror tend to occur at the start, the finish and around most racing marks, notably the Needles lighthouse and Bembridge Buoy. I was once knocked out by a very large, heavy boom at the latter.
Today’s race was even livelier – my 4.30 am start turned into a 6.30am start as I made my way by bike and foot to Hurst Castle – one of the the best land-based vantage points for spectators of the race. Here the boats bottleneck into a relatively narrow passage, and you get some great views.
Below are some of mine from this morning. Maybe next year I’ll take some from a floating vantage point.
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