Round The Island Race

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!