Local boat Eeyore, an Alacrity 18 Bilge Keel from Cowes, has laid claim to the prestigious Gold Roman Bowl, winning this year’s Round the Island Race after a long tactical day on the water.
With a crew of just three: skipper Joe Richards and his friends David Rickard and Duncan De Boltz, the 18-foot bilge keel was the smallest boat in the race.
A member of Gurnard Sailing Club and Cowes Corinthian, Richards talks through his winning race: “It was an interesting but long race, we actually started at the opposite end of the line from the rest of the fleet which paid us reasonably well in the end. We got down to The Needles middle of the fleet and then there was almost no wind. We bounced off a couple of rocks on The Needles just for good measure and then it’s tempting to stay out of the tide and we did a couple of little tacks and thought no we need to be strong minded and go out, because you always get a wind bend down off Freshwater and if you sail along under the cliffs it just leaves you in a hole eventually.
After competing in the Round the Island Race more times than he can remember and with two seconds already under his belt, Richards comments on his win: ”It’s probably about time too isn’t it? We’ve been second a couple of times over the years but the reality is there are some very good sailors out there and very good boats; you’ve got to be lucky and get the breaks. Unless you’ve done the preparation and put yourself in a position to get the breaks it doesn’t happen, but you do still have to be lucky.”
The race offered challenging sailing conditions for the crew of Eeyore, which circumnavigated the Isle of Wight in 13 hours, 36 minutes and 31 seconds. The fleet of over 1,200 entries contended with fluctuating wind speeds from every direction, with only 257 boats completing the race before the 10.30pm deadline.
The first finisher (with a time of 7 hours, 33 minutes and 36 seconds) was Yves Le Blevec’s Graghjghnd Prix racing multihull – ‘Actual Leader’ which led for much of the race. In light to moderate winds she managed to shake off her closest on-the-water rivals – Jethou, Ino XXX, Lady Mariposa and Mini Y.
A delighted Le Blevec (53) from La Trinite Sur Mer, commenting on a long, but exciting day on the race course just before he set sail back to La Trinite Sur Mer, said: “I really enjoyed the race, I always enjoy sailing here and it was great to have taken line honours. This is now my fourth time competing here but in this boat it was tricky. We stayed in the same place for two or three hours off Ventnor in no wind, which was frustrating. ‘Actual’ is designed as a round the world boat not for Round the Island Race. It is very difficult to manage tacking or gybing so often, so we are pleased to have done so well today.”
The award for the first monohull across the line, at 16:30:28 (taking 9 hours and 28 seconds), went to Sir Peter Ogden’s Judel Vrolijk Mini Maxi ‘Jethou’ which almost snatched the lead from ‘Actual Leader’ earlier in the day. Despite hitting the bottom and hooking a lobster pot the crew of ‘Jethou’ had a great race with owner, Sir Peter Ogden, commenting: “Our top speed was 20knts which was 2 minutes after the start, but it went downhill after that and we averaged 7.9knts over the course. The best sail of the day was the stretch from the forts to the finish where we enjoyed a really nice breeze.”
This year’s race saw thousands of sailors compete on over 1,200 yachts in one of the UK’s largest sporting events. The Round the Island Race is a true race for all with competitors enjoying a spinnaker start for the first time in almost ten years.
Commodore of the Island Sailing Club, David Atkinson said: “It's been a difficult day, we started in such great conditions in the morning with the wind doing exactly what we thought it would but as the day progressed the wind became increasingly unpredictable. One example was at St Catherine’s Point where one side there was 15knts of breeze, but just around the corner, half a mile away only 5-6knts of breeze from a totally different direction. Tactically today it was difficult because the wind was all over the show.
“But the competitors have been terrific, with lots of feedback on what a lovely day people have had on the water despite the wind. Someone said to me anyone can sail in a reasonably good, steady breeze but when you have to tactically think about the wind, the tides and everything else in order to make your boat go, that can make it really interesting.
“I’d like to thank all the competitors for making this a fantastic event, the new Official Race Village has gone down well and had a real buzz around it and now we’re looking forward to the prize giving tomorrow and welcoming people back again next year on 30th May 2020.”
British Sailing Team and official Round the Island Race Meteorologist, Simon Rowell, commented: “The weather today was set up for a good quick run down to The Needles, then once the fleet got through The Needles they were beating back up to St Catherine’s Point, still in a reasonable amount of breeze so that worked out OK.
“Then in the very hot afternoon, the warm air bubbling up off the island killed the breeze for quite a long way offshore, going from St Cat’s round to Bembridge. With some filling in, it did go round to the right as we were expecting with the forecast, and its now coming in nicely from the west southwest; but there was a very slow 3 or 4 hours for quite a few boats going round the south-east side of the Isle of Wight. The boats that did really well, especially the winner, managed to catch it very well and were just ahead of the light stuff on the south-east of the Island and managed to have a good run right to the finish.”
Michael Kitchen, actor, television producer and competitor, was the official race starter of the 88th Round the Island Race. Known particularly for his role as Detective Chief Superintendent Christopher Foyle in the ITV drama series Foyle’s War he said: “I couldn’t feel more honoured with the invitation of the official starter of this iconic race. It is a huge privilege. I have competed at the event many times and we always have a cracking time. It is a brilliant event.”