Round the Island Race in Association with Cloudy Bay

Image: Patrick Eden

The Round the Island Race in Association with Cloudy Bay, hosted by the Island Sailing Club, was first sailed in 1931, and sailors still compete for the legendary Gold Roman Bowl today.

The Round the Island Race in Association with Cloudy Bay really is a ‘Race For All’ with professional sailors racing alongside newcomers to the sport. Not only are all abilities welcomed, but any boat, from cruiser to maxi yacht, can enter.

This one-day yacht race regularly welcomes more than 1,600 boats and 16,000 sailors, making it one of the largest yacht race in the world.


Starting at the Royal Yacht Squadron line the course is around 50nm anti-clockwise round the Isle of Wight. On 1 July, the first start is at 0530 with HW Portsmouth at 0547hrs BST, so there should be plenty of west bound tide, but it is always worth studying the tide tables in advance.

Image: Patrick Eden

You do not want to be caught out by sudden changes in the weather, so make sure you have an up-to-date forecast. Raymarine provide a live weather briefing, to which all skippers are welcome, at the Island Sailing Club at 1800 on 30 June.

With so many boats starting you must keep to the designated waiting areas as much as possible before your scheduled start sequence. While waiting do not obstruct Cowes fairway, the deep-water channel or the start line.

Listen to the broadcasts on VHF 22 which will keep you informed on progress and only move to the start area once your warning (10 minute) signal has been made. Check the strength of the tide to make sure you are not carried across the line too early.


Last year a new race record for multihulls of 2hrs 23mins and 23secs was set by Lloyd

Thornburg on Phaedo 3 (smashing Sir Ben Ainslie’s 2013 record by 28 minutes), but for most competitors the return to Cowes will be during the afternoon and well into the evening on a light airs day.

In 2016 Sir Keith Mills’ FAST 40+ Invictus missed winning the coveted Gold Roman Bowl for the first IRC yacht on corrected time, having to settle for second place. His crew included Invictus Games competitor Zoe Williams, as well as Prince Harry.

The main prize instead went to Bernard Langley’s TP52 Gladiator, which powered around the course to become the second monohull to finish, crossing the line less than four-and-a-half hours after the start.

With Cloudy Bay announced as the Presenting Sponsor, this year the race includes amongst its entries the Farr 52 Bob, entered as Bob by Cloudy Bay, skippered by Stephen Durkin. Amongst the crew is Cloudy Bay Brand Ambassador, adventurer and storyteller, Ben Fogle.

Will Bob by Cloudy Bay and Ben Fogle walk away with the main prize? They will face some tough competition on the day.

There is no waiting around for results as they are published immediately they become available. Results can be seen on the website or via screens at the Island Sailing Club and the Race Village in Cowes Yacht Haven.

Race competitors are welcomed as a visitor to the Island Sailing Club, which is also where the race prizegiving ceremony is held at 12 noon on the Sunday. Everyone is welcome and the bar will be open from 11am.


Image: Paul Wyeth

For those wanting to watch the race, there are many good vantage points for spectators.

From 0530 early risers can capture the excitement of the starts near the Royal Yacht Squadron in Cowes, where the cannons are fired, and along The Green in Cowes. Assuming no delays, the starting sequence is scheduled to continue until 0710.

Yarmouth Pier and Fort Victoria, through to Totland will see the greatest concentration of boats after the starts. Tennyson Down East of The Needles commands a high vantage point. St Catherine’s Point by the lighthouse and Niton through to Ventnor usually enjoy spectacular spinnaker views when the wind is in the South or West. Views over Bembridge Ledge, Seaview and from Ryde Pier are always entertaining too.


Before race day arrives it is important that you check your boat over thoroughly. The extra pressure when racing will expose any weaknesses in sails, running rigging and other equipment.

You do not want anything to be slowing you down, and that includes a dirty hull, so get the underwater parts cleaned. Also check there are no cruising items on board like barbecues.

A kedge anchor should be easily accessible, but remember if your anchor is stowed on deck it must not protrude over the bow.

In such a large fleet, your unique sail number is vital and compulsory if the organisers are to record you correctly at the finish. You need to ensure it is clear on your mainsail and that the numbers on your sails match those given on your entry form. It is compulsory that dodgers with your full sail number on them are clearly shown.

As well as preparing your boat you need to get your crew ready for the big day. It is a good idea to arrange a practice day for newcomers to familiarise themselves with your boat.

On the day take care of your crew, ensuring the young and not so strong get some rest. Also, change responsibilities regularly as few people can maintain good concentration without regular breaks. You could be 12 hours or more on the water so having the right waterproof clothing, fluids and energy food is essential.


Many of those taking part in the race will be raising money for charity, whether the official race charity or one of their own choosing. A common way to raise funds is to set up a Just Giving page.

The official charity is The Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust, which been involved in the race for ten years and has raised more than £250,000 in that time. The Trust takes young people sailing to help them regain their confidence on their way to recovery from cancer. A flag to wave on the day will be given to those who raise over £50.

The Trust is planning to enter four boats in this year’s race with 28 inspirational young people on board.

Dame Ellen said: “The Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust feels extremely privileged to be the official charity for the Round the Island Race. The young people sailing are part of our Return to Sail programme which helps us to build long term relationships with the young people we work with during the difficult period between finishing treatment and hopefully reaching remission. We are all looking forward to getting out on the start line.”


There is still time to enter with standard entries open until midnight on 17 June. If you want to take part in the race but are not sure what you need to do before race day, just follow these simple, but important, steps and you can concentrate on enjoying race day.

  1. Read the Notice of Race

Make sure that your boat is eligible to take part and that you understand the requirements that you and your boat need to meet. The Notice of Race contains all the eligibility criteria, as well as start times and the prizes you can win. It covers, for example, ratings and whether your boat meets the entry conditions. The Notice of Race is available at the Round the Island Race website.

  1. Entry details

Before completing the entry form, make sure you have all the necessary details. If you are entering for the ISC Rating System class, you will need to provide some measurement information for the rating allocation. Read the Notice of Race and check whether you are eligible for one of the special trophies for family teams, young sailors and sailing school boats.

  1. Make your entry online

Once you have all the required information you can fill in the online form and make your payment. Next time around save yourself some money and take note of the early-bird entry closing date which, this year, was on 18 February.

  1. Crew list

You must supply the organisers will a full list of crew members by 28 June. This is easily done online and can be up-dated if required.

  1. Sailing Instructions

About a week before race day you will receive a link to the Sailing Instructions, which are essentially the ‘special rules’ of the race and explain what you can, cannot and must do on race day. Follow them carefully to avoid disappointment on race day. You should also brush up on your general rules knowledge by reading the Racing Rules of Sailing 2017-2020.

  1. Boat preparation and Fleet Flag

It goes without saying you should thoroughly check your boat and give it a good clean. Check the letters and number printed on your sails are the same on each sail and match the information on your entry form. If you can, get a dodger made with your full sail number on it and display it as detailed in the Sailing Instructions. Attach your Fleet Flag, which you will receive in the post about 10 days before the race.

  1. Tides and weather

Do not be caught out! HW Portsmouth is around 0547 BST which should give plenty of favourable tide to the Needles – but make sure you know what to expect from the tidal streams. Also, check the expected weather conditions, either from local radio or one of the weather websites.

  1. Safety book

Probably the single most important thing to find time for. Read it when you receive the link, read it again before you go racing and make sure the crew read it too.


Although late June is usually chosen for the race, the organisers also take into account when tides are most favourable. This may lead to a late May or early July race day. You can already plan you Round the Island Race five years ahead:

23 June, 2018
29 June, 2019
30 May, 2020
3 July, 2021
25 June, 2022


1 July
Cowes, Isle of Wight