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Round the Island Race - Isle of Wight

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Published 01:00 on 1 Jul 2022

Race: Round the Island Race - Isle of Wight

Date: 25th June 2022

The Round the Island Yacht Race is the largest sailing event in the U.K. Inaugurated in 1931, with just 25 entries, the challenge is a handicap race around the Isle of Wight. This year a happy mix of amateurs and professionals crewed 1100 boats and MYC's Heather Smith and Ben Hyam decided to join the fun. We raced in Addiction, a Beneteau First 40.7 racer/cruiser owned and skippered by Rob Gibson, the author of the RYA Sail Trim Handbook.

8am on the start line, jostling the other 80 boats in our class, the debate was to reef or not to reef? We decided to go without, and set off on our first leg, a beat down to the Needles, in 15 knots of wind on an ebbing tide. As the tide picked up, so did the wind, and we rounded the Needles at full pelt in 25 knots. The sea state, terrific in every sense of the word, had Heather whooping with delight as waves smashed over the deck. Two and a half hours in and as we headed on the next leg towards St Catherine's Point the wind came round enough to tempt us with the idea of flying the kite. So up it went, and surfing down the rather large waves at 10+ knots was a blast. The sight of some 800 spinnakers unfurling behind us made one of life's enduring memories and spurred us on to even greater speed.

The exceptional thing about this race is the number of boats. Finding clean air is a vital tactic and there is often a tough choice between the best position to benefit from the tide and avoiding being caught on port tack in the midst of a myriad of zigzagging boats. You inevitably sail both with and against the wind and the tide as you circumnavigate the island, and every tactical skill is challenged as you try to pick the best relative course. Inshore to catch the back eddies where you can get an extra lift or further out to get a stronger wind and better angle. The southeast side of the island from Bembridge ledge to Seaview was another long reach for us and our formula 1 spin. trim team worked hard to notch up another 50 or 60 places as we passed some beautiful boats taking a slightly less competitive approach than our adrenaline junkies from MYC. Rounding the mark and with the finish line almost in sight the trick is not to run aground on the deceptively shallow Ryde sands. Several boats get harmlessly stranded every year but suffer the embarrassment of having the whole fleet smile and wave at them as they breeze past.

Addiction passed the test with flying colours and skimmed over the line in 8 hours 2 minutes and 40 seconds. 160th out of 1100 over the line and 14th in our class. Lessons learned, much racing experience gained and beers in hand, a beaming crew pulled into Cowes to enjoy a hearty curry and a celebration in the local pub.

Heather and Ben joined yacht Addiction from Poole harbour and made a long weekend of it with a feeder race from Poole to Cowes on Friday as a warm up, and another race back on the Sunday to put our newly learnt skills to use. Our take was that this is a brilliant race and a thrilling weekend of sailing. MYC should definitely think about putting a team together for next year. Let's work our way up the score board!

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Last updated 19:57 on 7 February 2023

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