Round The Island Race

This weekend is the annual Round The Island Race – oh deep joy.
For those unaware of this fine tradition, The annual Round the Island Race is a one-day yacht race around the Isle of Wight. The race regularly attracts over 1,600 boats and around 16,000 sailors. This makes it one of the largest yacht races in the world and the fourth largest participation sporting event in the UK after the London Marathon, the Great North and South Runs.
It is open to any yacht.
If  you ignore all the sooper dooper teflon coated carbon fibre professional yachts crewed with lithe athletic young men, you are left with any grizzled amateur sailor who owns a boat. If it has sails, is water tight and the skipper knows where the IOW is, it can race.
MOBOer’s are excluded!!!


The weather  for RTI race usually is an extreme of either end  of the Beaufort scale. It’s either blowing an 11 force hooley or blowing nothing, zilch, bugger all.
2012 saw an horrendous start to the race. The wind was around a force 10 and the start line was too narrow. This caused many yachts to crash into each other. Yachts limped back into marinas missing complete masts and rigging and holes in hulls caused by “T boning” It was a miracle that no one was killed.
In 2014  it was the total opposite. 1500 boats made it to the south side of the island when the wind suddenly just died. They took five  hours from the Needles to reach St Catherine’s Point when a sea breeze kicked in. However, just as they were within sight of the line, the wind in Stokes Bay died and their final flourish was delayed by a further hour to record a finish time of 8 hours and 51 mins.

Basic Rules

Get to the start line at about 4 am, haul up as much canvas as possible and once the gun goes. sail like the clappers towards the Needles. Then turn left along the south side of the island up past Bembridge and back to Cowes. Depending on the wind the professionals can do it in about 2hrs 30mins.
And that seems to be the only rule! Crashing into each other is obligatory, loosing parts of the boat is de rigueur and MOB is all par for the course. Normally it’s total chaos and utter madness.
For us  MOBOer’s left at home,  it means the following

Pre Race Friday

  • The annual ritual of watching yacht crews trying in vain to get the large self adhesive black race stickers to stick to their hull in a stiff breeze.
  • Listening to skippers briefing their crew in loud braying voices. Crew not taking any notice.
  • Being without marina WIFI. It has ground to a halt because 1600 boats are trying to download weather updates every 10 minutes.
  • Eating onboard as  there is no room in any restaurant. Crews need to fill up on pre race carbohydrates and copious amount of alcohol.

Race Saturday

  • Lots of noise at 3 am as the yotties get up to fry bacon and clamber into foulies
  • Lots of noise at 3.30am as yachts start their phut phut engines and leave for the start line
  • 4am – Silence
  • Empty marinas for most of the Saturday
  • Deserted restaurants
  • Spectator fun as the boats return mid afternoon missing bits of masts, holes in sides, torn sails and injured crew.
  • There is no point going out, the Solent is awash with yachts tacking hither and thither all over the place.
  • Its a complete waste of time to call Solent Coast Guard for a radio check. They are far too busy dealing with MOB’s and don’t even think about getting any help from the RNLI because they too are up to their gunnels dealing with sinking vessels.

Moral of this story…ditch the canvas and get a boat with 2 huge diesel guzzling engines and watch the race quietly bobbing at anchor!

Fender Kicking

Fender kicking is to boat buying what tyre kicking is to car buying. A pointless, souless, time consuming waste of a day.
Perhaps it’s pier pressure (a little marine humour there) that causes otherwise sane people to immediately start planning the purchase of a larger boat the same day they take delivery of their new one.
All it takes is for some so-called friend to float by in a boat that’s 6 feet longer and 5 knots faster saying, “Do you want to come out with us”?
You give it a try and the next thing you know, you’re visiting boat brokers, saving searches on Google, scouring eBay, Gumtree, every online boat site and putting your 3 week old boat on BoatShed.
Tragically, you’re hooked. Another classic example of the need for a Just Say No campaign on our nation’s coast and waterways.
Sadly we have just fallen into this trap. I am not going to bore you just suffice to say we have seen what we want if the right boat in the right condition came onto the market. And that’s the crux, the meaning of  “The right condition”.
My idea of tidy and well maintained obviously is no way close to someone else’s. Believe me have we seen some horrors. so I am going to impart some advice and my interpretation of some common broker terms

Mechanical- 3 levels

  1. Well maintained. Full service history is available, everything works first time, every time. Can eat your dinner off the engine bay floor
  2. Needs a service. Clouds of billowing diesel smoke on starting the engine. A bit of a rattle.
  3. Not been used for a long time.  – Seized gears, no oil, nasty sound from something expensive IF you can get the bugger to start, engine bay full of gunge. Smell of something over heating and burning. Walk away.

Tired – 4 levels

  1. Lowest level of neglect. A bucket of hot soapy water and some elbow grease normally resolves this problem
  2. Medium neglect. Add to above  a steam cleaner, carpet cleaner, industrial strength heads cleaner and bucket of bleach.
  3. High neglect. All of above applies plus new upholstery and foam, new carpet and new headlining. Outside needs a steam clean and some serious polishing.
  4. OMG – Walk away!! Full hazard suit required and  wipe your feet on the way out. The best way to deal with this is 2 gallons of unleaded and a box of Swan Vestas. Light blue touch paper and stand well back

Finally….Check all the fridges. I am  amazed at the amount of people selling a boat who leave the fridge full. I have opened fridges to be recoiled from the odour of milk turned to yogurt and an unidentifiable piece of food that is growing more mould that medical science could create a new antibiotic out of it.

VHF Radio Bloopers

So come on… own up….
Who gets a bit flustered while communicating on the VHF Radio?
Getting your “overs”and”outs” mixed up, forgetting where you are, what boat you are on. We all do it.
We recently changed our boat and I had to make a conscious effort not to keep calling out the old boats name. However some people just get it plain wrong.
A recent example in the Solent one busy Saturday went like this….

  • “Hamble Point Marina, this is yacht Numbnuts” (clear lack of confidence in the voice….)
  • “Yacht Numbnuts, this is Hamble Point Marina, can I help you.. ?”
  • “Yes please…… over”

At which point you could imagine the person going ….. why on earth did I say that… you idiot… you idiot…?
The good folk at Solent Coast Guard must have the patience of saints considering some of the radio traffic I have heard. Not a week goes by at the height of the summer without some idiot jamming the PTT button open and flooding the emergency channel 16  with blaring music or broadcasting to the world a serious domestic row.
We have all heard  Fifi  Double-Barrelled posh totty  discussing last nights hilarious drunken antics in Cowes – OK Yaaaar, Super, Frightfully good wheeze.
Just move to a working channel and keep it short.
Then there are the foreign skippers whose command of English leave a lot to be desired and need some serious translation.

Roger and Out

On the RYA Radio course we are all taught correct radio technique but sometimes you just want to throw some of it out of the window.
The times I have itched to call out “Breaker Breaker Rubber Duck, we have a convoy and there’s a bear at your back door”
On a recent trip across the Channel when the only boat is sight was the boat we were in convoy with we did exactly that. Instead of the normal
SEAWICK – SEAWICK – SEAWICK, this is JESSICA – JESSICA – JESSICA. It was more of the case of
“Oi SEAWICK – you got your ears on?!!”
Other things we are taught is never to say “Over and Out” in the same sentence. “Over” means you want a response  and “Out” means you have finished. But please can we bring back the word ROGER….. meaning to “I understand”
Whats wrong with a ROGER – saves time and conveys everything needed???? You chose which answer makes more sense.
Boat Numpty this is Hythe Lock you are now free to enter –
Answer 1.
Answer 2.
Hythe Lock -Hythe Lock -Hythe Lock, this is Boat Numpty -Boat Numpty- Boat Numpty,  all received and understood, Boat Numpty listening channel eight zero out.
No contest really.
In the previously used US spelling alphabet,”Roger” was phonetic for “R” meaning received and understood.  In the current spelling alphabet (NATO), R is Romeo.
Now if you want to yell out “ROMEO” to the burly ex-submariner lock keeper at Hythe Marina , you go right ahead, at your own risk. I wash my hands of all responsibility from any following consequences.
“Roger Wilko” is never ever used, we are sailing a boat not flying a Spitfire.
Chocks away Ginger