This year’s J.P. Morgan Asset Management Round the Island will go down in history as a windy and action packed edition of the event. It was a race of highs and lows with Sir Ben Ainslie’s multihull record smashed by Phaedo 3 and a yacht dramatically sinking.
The 50nm Round the Island Race, which had over 1,500 entries, took place in far stronger winds than originally anticipated, leading to the cancellation of some classes of boat.
ISC Sailing Flag and head of the ISC Race Management team, Dave Atkinson, said: “It has been more of a challenge this year than we have had in recent years. The heavy weather forced us into making some pretty major decisions in cancelling some classes but we feel that with safety always being paramount, we were entirely justified in doing what we did.”
It was a fast-paced day that started at a later than usual 0830 with the firing of the first gun by HRH Prince Michael of Kent GCVO.
The winner of the race’s biggest prize, the Gold Roman Bowl for the first IRC boat on corrected time, was Bernard Langley’s TP52 Gladiator. She powered around the course to become the second monohull to finish, crossing the line less than four and a half hours after her start.
Although Gladiator’s owner, Tony Langley, is currently racing his other TP52 in Sardinia, his three children, Tom, Charlotte and Bernard, helped to sail her to victory.
Boat captain Brett Aarons said: “It was a windy and rough race, especially in the overfalls off St Catherine’s and Dunnose. It was very wet, both on deck and below.”
Sir Keith Mills’ FAST 40+ Invictus missed out on winning the coveted Gold Roman Bowl, having to settle for second place. His crew included Prince Harry and Invictus Games competitor Zoe Williams.
Although the top four places overall went to high-budget campaigns, the J.P. Morgan Asset Management Round the Island Race has always been one in which amateur sailors and those with possibly shallower pockets can excel.
Paul Dunstan’s modest 25ft Folkboat from 1974 was one of the best placed smaller boats this year, taking ninth place overall on corrected time and second place in IRC Division 3D to Andy Shaw’s Flying Boat.
The largest monohull in the fleet, Mike Leopard’s 100ft Leopard, took monohull line honours, but failed to beat the record time he set in 2013 by 13 minutes.
The high winds did have their benefits, as described by competitor Joy Smalley on board Alacrity: “We were expecting champagne sailing and sunshine to celebrate our skipper and his wife’s 10th wedding anniversary. We knew that was not going to be the case when the first announcement was for all participants to wear lifejackets. This was reinforced heading out onto the water with many yachts sporting reefed mains and No 2 genoas. The windy conditions provided us with a fast finish in 7 hours 8 minutes – a great overall result and more time in the bar to party.”
not all plain sailing…
The Race Village at Cowes Yacht Haven, complete with live entertainment, bustling bar and food attractions brought the race alive late into the evening, especially for late stragglers who had battled strong winds and big seas in small boats after 12 hours at sea.
Despite the unusually testing conditions, only a small percentage of the fleet retired, with the overwhelming majority of competitors – some of whom saw gusts to almost 40 knots – successfully completing the course.
By 2100 there were only a handful of the back markers left on the final few miles of the race course.
The challenging conditions led to one serious incident when Alchemist, belonging to the Island Sailing Club’s commodore, sank just east of the Needles after hitting a shipwreck. Alchemist had been a familiar boat in the race having competed for many years.
The Yarmouth and Mudeford lifeboats went to her assistance with Mudeford rescuing all the crew just seconds before the yacht sank.
Commodore, Mark Wynter, had not been on board and fortunately none of the crew were seriously injured.
Alchemist was not the only boat to suffer in the conditions. The Yarmouth lifeboat was called out to six incidents. One yacht was stranded in a busy shipping channel after losing its steering near Ventnor whilst carrying 12 people.
In a more serious incident, the day before the race Cowes RNLI lifeboat was launched after a yachtsman received serious head injuries while the crew were practising in the Solent.
The yacht could not proceed to shore under its own power because a rope had fouled the propeller. The man, in his 30s, was taken by ambulance to St Mary’s Hospital, Newport.
Multihull record smashed
Sir Ben Ainslie’s multihull record – held since 2013 – was broken by MOD70 trimaran Phaedo 3, in a time of 2 hours 23 minutes, 23 seconds. This was an impressive 28 minutes ahead of the record set by Ainslie.
After the race skipper Brian Thompson said: “It was a beautiful day out there, but not the perfect conditions for the fastest trip ever. Had we been able to reach the Needles without tacking we might have finished 10 minutes faster, but that would be a really special day.”
Prizegiving at ISC
The prizegiving at the Island Sailing Club attracted a huge audience for the presentation of Gold and Silverware.
In the welcome by Vice Commodore Peter Bingham and Race PRO Mike Peskett, tributes were paid to numerous ISC teams, many comprised of the 100 or so volunteers that work so hard for the sheer love of the race every year.
Thanks also went to the race sponsor, J.P. Morgan Asset Management, in this 12th and final year of their partnership.
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Next year’s Race takes place on 1 July.
All the results and trophy winners: